Monday, August 31, 2009

Day 21

It was travel day, so I didn't write much. Maybe like 50 words or so, and I'm not counting those (well, I am counting them toward tomorrow's word count. LOL)

I can't believe it's September already. This summer sure went by fast. Well, technically it's still summer until the autumnal equinox on September 22, so we still have about three weeks of that stuff, but it sure feels chilly in this part of the world. On Sunday I came out from a restaurant and I was freezing (I only had T-shirt and jeans on). The temperature had dropped to 58˚F overnight. It was definitely an WTF moment. I thought I was going to have a heart attack because it was so cold.

Funny thing is, it's all relative. If this were January and 58˚, I would be streaking down the street because it'd be "so warm"!

Anyway, part of me is sad that summer is almost over and the end of the year is nigh. But part of me is happy. Autumn is my favorite season and I'm kind of looking forward to the holiday season -- I think we all need those extra cheers and time with our families. It's been a really tough year. Hopefully the economy will rebound by the end of the year and 2010 will be a better year for all of us.

It will if I win the lottery.

0 word, 8500 words total
344 days and 177000 words to go

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Days 18, 19, 20

Hey baby, long time no see.

Weekends continue to be a real challenge for me to meet my writing goals. Yes, excuses again, but they are real. The distractions are not kind to people like me who love to procrastinate, eat bon bons and take long naps. Not to mention the Fall-like weather was so pleasant that I just wanted to get out and play. OK, no excuses, I promise.

I did manage to get some work done. The great thing about weekends is that I could sleep in, and I do work better in the middle of the night. It's easier for me to get into "the zone." Still, I have a hard time "letting go" and just write. That's something I'll continue to work on.


1000 words, 8500 words total
345 days and 177000 words to go

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day 17

I had a busy day today and managed to write another 200 words. Yes, I know, I've been "slacking" and real life continues to get in the way. I will have to seriously make up for the slack this weekend. Wish me luck.

What I want to talk about today, though, is, again, friendship. And today I want to talk about my friend Joanne.

Joanne and I met online at She's a seasoned freelance writer and a novelist (speculative fiction) and I was just starting out, trying to get my first novel published and slogging through the first draft of my second novel. Jo and I hit it off immediately. She has a great sense of humor, a free spirit, and the kindest soul I know. She's also extremely talented, helpful, very much a smart cookie.

What I didn't know at the time was that she had had some serious setbacks in her life, which she blogged about. Eventually Jo and I started chatting in real life and I got to know her better. Jo was involved in a serious car accident. She had suffered from strokes that wiped out her ability to walk, talk, and write. She had to relearn everything and it took her years, but she did it. "Perseverance" is her motto and she's a living proof of that. In recent years, she's been caring for her mother who has Alzheimer's. Again, perseverance.

Jo and I met in real life for a few times. My first impression of her is "What a fun, cute (and short) great lady!" The Jo I met had class, poise, a great sense of self-deprecating humor, and she was everything I thought she was, and then some. She was extremely encouraging of my writing and publishing endeavors, and she offered me plenty of sound advice. She even offered to review my novel when it came out, and she promised me she would be fair and honest. Jo wore her heart on her sleeves and I appreciated her honesty and genuineness. We became even better friends when we started to chat and critique each other's works online. We pushed each other to write, what with my procrastination and her hardship in real life. I wish I could do more to support her, but I also know that she's surrounded by a lot of love. It's hard not to love her back.

Jo's courage and resilience and kindness and love is inspiring. I wish I were half the person she is, and I'm deeply in love with this human being.

I haven't heard from Jo for a while now. The last blog entry of hers was posted in March this year; she was having a tough time. My heart goes out to her and her family and every day I think of her and send her my good vibes, and every day I hope to hear from her again. In the meantime, I have to respect her privacy.

I wish her all the best, and I can wait to hear from her, and push each other to write.

200 words today, 7500 words total
348 days and 178000 words to go

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day 16

What I've been thinking today continued to be about friendship, and I thought about some of my good friends. Best friends, even. Some of whom I no longer keep in touch.

Take Kenny for an example. I met Kenny during kindergarten. We were best friends until he moved with his family to the Netherlands, but we kept in touch for a very long time. Kenny and I had similar sense of humor, and we liked the same comic books. We would go to take long lunch breaks and read our comic books. I don't quite remember what we liked to do together back then -- it was such a long, long time ago. After Kenny moved to Europe, he sent me postcards, aerograms and pictures once in a while, and I used to be envious of him. The Netherlands looked so serene, beautiful and modern. He got to bike to school while I had to take buses. He lived in a spacious house with a backyard while I lived in a 300 sq. ft. apartment. He had International friends. But we kept in touch. We talked about our respective schools, our lives, and what we wanted to do in the future.

After high school I came to the US for college, and soon I got to live the life I used to envy: biking to school, living in a spacious apartment, meeting International friends. Suddenly I felt like Kenny and I weren't all that different after all. But the reality was, we were different. And the irony was our lives reversed. Kenny didn't go to college. He couldn't get a job in Europe, so he returned to Hong Kong and worked at a store. The fact was, he was miserable in the Netherlands; after all those years he could not adjust. He probably was a victim of prejudice as well. He hated his life in the Netherlands and returning home made him happy. I, on the other hand, was having the time of my life in the US.

As adults, we started to drift apart and our world views began to divert. During my second year of college, I returned home for a visit and met up with Kenny for the first time since we were children. Things had changed. I was very happy to see him, but soon we ran out of things to talk about and it suddenly dawned on me: we were not children anymore. What had always been holding our friendship together was the idea and the memories of our childhood together and our common bond at school. The reality was that our childhood was over and our school days were distant memories. The reality was that we didn't have anything in common anymore. When I left the restaurant, I felt an immense sadness but also a strange relief. It was as if I had to say goodbye to a childhood friend so I could move on to adulthood.

Today, I wonder what Kenny is doing now. Is he still in Hong Kong? Is he married? Does he have children? Yet, my memories of our childhood together are sketchy at best. I still have some of his letters and pictures, probably somewhere in the attic. But we're no longer friends.

Reminds me of something I wrote the other day in my WIP:

He shrugged at the thought and realized their paths might have intersected for a brief moment, but their lives would continue on different directions, if they were lucky enough to stay alive after all.

So long, Kenny. Good luck and godspeed.

300 words today, 7300 words total
349 days and 178200 words to go

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day 15

Week 3.

I woke up at 4 a.m. this morning and couldn't go back to sleep. My friends on Facebook were still snoozing, so I decided to work on the WIP.

It was a strange thing. I used to write in the middle of the night, sometimes up until 4 or 5 a.m. I've forgotten how peaceful and quiet it is at night, and how words would just flow. I'm definitely a night person, but my situations don't allow me to sleep all day and work all night. However, I really enjoyed it this early morning. I wrote about 800 words.


It's a beautiful day. I'm rather sad that school has started and summer is coming to an end. Granted, Fall is my favorite season (I was born in autumn, after all), and the weather won't turn nasty until November anyway. Still, the thought of another winter can be crippling. With decreasing sunshine and temperature, it would be more and more difficult to find the motivation to write. On the other hand, there will be fewer distractions such as taking a walk or going for a swim.

I do love seasonal changes. Love, love, love. Believe it or not, I actually like winter. I love snow (and I love to ski). I like the desolation. I like the crooked nakedness of the trees. I even like bundling up and watching my breaths disappearing in the crisp air. There's something magical and romantic about winter. And of course, the holiday season is double or triple magical, if we can live through the bombardment of commercialism and Christmas songs.

OK, probably shouldn't go there. No need to get a Christmas song stuck in my... oh well, too late.

800 words today, 7000 words total
350 days and 178500 words to go

Day 14

Week two is coming to an end and it's been a mixed week. It started well. I focused on my protagonist and worked on a couple of pivotal scenes and they just kept expanding -- I loved it. I had to make some serious consideration of where I want it to go, though. But the weekend came and it became harder to work on the WIP because I felt exhausted and unmotivated for some reasons. Emotionally I wasn't there. I felt like a balloon with its air being let out -- it's a cliche but also exactly how I felt.

So, I didn't meet this week's quota but that's okay; I'll make it up. The more important thing is I'm still committed to this. Tomorrow is a brand new day, and a brand new week, and I know I'll work through it.

200 words today, 6200 words total
351 days and 179300 words to go

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Day 12 and 13

Weekend. Ah, my Achilles' Heels.

What is it about weekends that make working on my WIP so much more difficult? I certainly have the time. But anyway, that's something I need to work out.

But that's not what's on my mind right now. I'll make up the slack one way or another, and I'm actually psyched about the next scenes or two, so I am not sweating. Yet.

What's on my mind is the topic of friendship. In my WIP, the theme of friendship is very strong. There are multiple important and extraordinary friendships in the story. Makes me realize some of the amazing stories in the world are about friendship. Bromance is the hot thing now, and something like The Hangover is popular not only because it's hilarious, but also because of the strong friendships in the story. We can all identify with the importance of that. Who doesn't value and yearn for those once-in-a-life-time friendship that may last longer than any romantic relationships one can have?

I guess what I've been contemplating while working on the novel is my own friendships. People have come in and out of my life. Close friends have drifted apart. New friendships have been formed. What makes me sad is some of my closest friends have disappeared or the friendship has changed. And I can only count on my hand the number of friends I can trust my life on. Maybe not even that. I used to have those kind of friends in my life, but now it seems like they're rarer and rarer. So what makes such friends indispensable? What makes them so important part of our lives? And how do we keep them? Is there any kind of friendship that really can stand the test of time, distance, and circumstances?

That's absolutely something I'd like to explore in my novel.

500 today, 6000 words so far
352 days, 179500 words to go

Friday, August 21, 2009

Day 11

One of my Facebook updates today was: "500 words a day seems very easy, until you try to do that every single day." To that my friend Janet said, "it is easy as long as you know what is happening next."

True, true, very true. One of the challenges of writing novels is that we don't often know what comes next, especially if we're not the outlining type. I write character-driven stories, so I like to write at the seat of my pants and see where my characters take me. I like to be surprised. That's not to say I don't have the foggiest idea of where the plot is heading. I do. I have summaries that say something like "Kai and Andrews became friends." Vague stuff. But how that actually happens is up in the air, and it can go in so many different directions: action-packed, dramatic, emotional, melodramatic, ordinary, contemplative, etc. etc. My biggest challenge today is to come up with a scene that pushes my protagonist and a character named Andrews together in an interesting and dramatic way for the readers to enjoy. Obviously, I could choose not to elaborate on that and just told my readers: yes, the two men have formed a friendship. Something deep down, though, tells me I need to make that into a scene or two, because the friendship between these two characters are so important (to the second part of the story) that it requires a good treatment. The readers deserve to experience that.

Am I being too hard on myself? I wonder sometimes. Certainly I could choose the easier way out and move on with the plot. Sometimes I feel like I'm stalling, because I'm stuck with certain scenes and I'm unable or unwilling to write around them. Some writers would simply put down some placeholders and move on, fulfilling their word count with another scene or two. Me? I try too hard to work through these scenes sometimes, because I'm afraid if I don't, the rest of the story would suffer. I would have taken the wrong path or something would not ring true.

I mean, take this scene for example: "Kai and Andrews became friends." What does it mean? How does it happen? To me, how that happens not only fulfills the purpose of this statement, but has impact on how the rest of the plot unfolds and how their friendship grows. The history and impact of this encounter, in my mind, is very much as important as how it happens, because plot is about choices and has consequences, and these consequences are what make the plot relevant, interesting, and insightful.

So yes, I think I'm being a bit too hard on myself, but I think the work will benefit from it.

The challenge is to meet the daily word count while working through this kind of thought processes and plotting. Today I was able to work through that I'm liking the direction very much and, in the process, gain some additional insight into my characters.

It's been a good week so far.

1000 words today, 5500 words total
354 days and 180000 words to go

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day 10

Ah, Ten. The magic number.

I can't believe it's already been ten days since I started this thing, and I'm still doing it. So far so good. I figure in just three months, before Christmas, I would have 45000 words down and maybe that would be the end of my first draft? And then I can start on my new novel. One can only hope.

Thursday is usually a blah day for me, but since I already had my blah day yesterday, today's looking good. I've already told a few friends on Facebook how weird they are, so all is good! But I think I'll do something different today -- I'm going to try to take a nap. It's not easy to take a nap when you're working and running around, but I think I will try to do that today. I also need to go to the gym today. It's been a few days... hmmmmm... surely I can write and work out on the same day, if not at the same time!


Motivation is the problem today, not moods or lack of coffee. I guess you can run on full at all times, and sooner or later the tank is going to be empty, and now it's time to ask myself, "Where the heck is the gas station?"

But like Charlaine Harris said, "Writing is work. I don't wait for inspiration. I have deadlines."


Not feeling my best today. Perhaps it's because I didn't sleep well last night or something, but I'm really having a hard time focusing. Head hurts. Stomach is queasy. Just want to sleep it off.

500 words today, 4500 words total
355 days and 181000 words

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Day 9

Having a blah day so far. It seems like the weekly mood swing has returned, and this morning I was rather down in the dumps for no reasons. Absolutely no reasons at all. It simply seemed like nothing interest me at all, including getting out of bed. Even putzing around seemed like a chore. I don't understand this. I mean, life is good right now. I just booked a gig and received several residual checks. The book is coming along. Last time I checked, I still have friends. So I really don't understand this weekly scheduled event of being down.

Writing about it helps a little. Now I feel like maybe I will actually do something.


I did manage to have a pretty good day. Got things done and felt better about everything. Well, actually, it's not like I was unhappy about anything. Like I said, it was just a general malaise. Not to mention I have this uncomfortable pimple on my face -- ugh, it's been a long time since I had one. Must be stress related.

This evening I started to watch Bridge Over River Kwai just to get a better sense of the time period and settings, etc. It was an interesting movie, but dated. Very typical of the WWII movies in the 50s and 60s, even though it was directed by master David Lean. The central story with Saito and Nicholson is very interesting: the politics, the power struggle, the scheming. The thread with Sheers is rather flat, however, and almost stereotypical American. Still, the movie gave me lots of ideas and details to use in my own novel. Since I couldn't be there in 1943 or get any first-person narrative, this is the best alternative.

My own scene has come along quite well, and the characters, including new characters, are speaking to me. I like it.

500 words today, 4000 words total
356 days, 181500 words to go

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day 8

That is: Week #2!

This week started off pretty nicely. Two unexpected events kind of brightened the dark, stormy sky: 1. Got news that a sizable residual check is coming my way, and 2. I booked another modeling job.

It is very interesting that when we're not expecting anything, or when we have very low expectations, we are more content or the "unexpected" becomes quite an event for us.

Take that job for instance. I went to a go-see in January for that project. They seemed to like me, but I never heard back from them, so I just chalked it up as a FAIL. No problem. No expectations. If it's not mine, it's not mine. Then suddenly last week I got a call. They wanted to see me again because they have a new campaign and they thought I would be good with the new products. So I went in for another test and the lady there said they really liked me for the last shoot, but at the end, they chose a female instead because they had too many guys. It's great that they kept me in mind. Sometimes, when you least expect it, something happens that goes in your favor.

Same with writing, I suppose. There are times when I'd try too hard. I'd expect greatness or at least decent prose and plot development and so on, but the process turned into agonies or disappointments. And then there were times when I just let go: whatever happens, just write. And the words flowed. Things fell into place. Characters came alive. Amazing.


It's about 10 p.m. Just now ready to add some more words to the WIP. Listening to Saving Private Ryan soundtrack, writing the war camp scene. Corpses. Limbs. Intense.

500 words today, 3500 words total
357 days, 182000 words to go

Monday, August 17, 2009

Day 7

Ah, Monday again.

The weekend has proven to be more difficult for me to stay on track than weekdays. Go figure. During the weekend, there seems to be more temptations to not do the work. Instead, there are naps to be had, food to eat, TV and movies to watch, and friends to get together with, dinners to go to, so on and so forth. (Again, refer to the "excuses" post a few days ago.)

I did manage to put a bunch of words down yesterday: mostly notes and outlines, but I consider them actual word counts since they can be expanded to the actual prose.

Dawn asked me, "Wouldn't blogging about haircuts and lattes distract you from your writing? Wouldn't it be more productive to focus on the writing the WIP instead of blogging?"

The thing is, blogging about the process and the challenge keeps me going, but I can't blog about my writing every single time. It gets boring fast. The whole idea of blogging about this is to keep myself motivated. The daily tallies keep me on my toes. I know I missed a day (Saturday) and it's only the first week. But then again, I've written 3000 words (assuming I meet my quota today) in one week. That's a lot of progress. If I can keep this up for even just another month, that's more than 12000 words!

It's kind of hard to explain. I'm not blogging to get readers. I still am sure that I only have five or fewer readers so I'm certainly not blogging for that reason. But blogging keeps my mind going and keeps me, believe it or not, focused on the creative writing. Blogging about the process also keeps my hands typing and my brain thinking on the story. It gives me a sense that I'm accomplish something, that I'm meeting my "deadlines." Without this part of the process, I tend to find all kind of excuses to not do the work, as I did on Saturday. I ended up not working on the WIP and not blogging much on Saturday because I got distracted with everything else. Blogging about my day, my life, etc. (instead of simply blogging about writing) also helps me creatively. I can only talk about "writing the novel" for so long before I bore myself to death.

Also, it's a challenge to myself. I do better under "pressure" and trying to meet a goal or challenge. I finished my first novel almost completely based on a dare: "FINISH IT or else." I didn't think I could do it, but once I set a goal and deadlines, I did it. To change plans now, to not blog about this every day, or to just set some arbitrary goal without any clear measurements would not work. I know, because I did all that in the past few years. Sooner or later I'll find excuses to not sit down and write. Sooner or later I would lose track of my progress and realize I haven't opened the document in 23 days.

The blog keeps me on my toes. It's a public record of my progress. It's like telling my writing buddies "I wrote this much today." It keeps me honest about my progress. I'm not going to lie about it. If I missed a day, I'm going to blog about it.

Also, I blog throughout the day. It's not like I'm spending three hours working on the blog. I write a sentence or two, then I go off and work on the WIP some more. When I feel a bit stifled, I'd add a few more lines in the blog. That keeps the cogs and wheels turning.

We all have good days, bad days, good weeks, bad weeks. And the fact that I'm going to get 3000 words down this week is definitely good.


The words flowed today. What I found interesting was that I had summarized the scene with narrative yesterday. I hadn't intended to expand on it, but I ended up doing just that, adding dialogue and action and descriptions. The scenes have much more detail and are nicely nuanced with character interactions and the five senses (including the stench of the corpses).

500 words today, 3000 words total
358 days, 1825000 words to go

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Day 6

I spent a good portion of the day researching and writing notes about the Burma Railway (aka "Death Railway") during the Pacific War, especially the background stories of Bridge 277, better known as the Bridge On the River Kwai. Part of my story now shifts to that location and time period. Obviously, I'm not going to rewrite Bridge On the River Kwai by Pierre Boule, but the history there is so rich that I feel I can use the same setting for this portion of my story. It also lends to a plot development later in the book.

So, no, I'm not writing prose today, but I'm getting a lot of words done outlining the story and creating the notes.

Wars may be terrible and I'm quite a pacifist to begin with, but they sure make for a wealth of materials to write about. My problem is research: exactly how much information I need? Certainly I'm not writing a dissertation and I don't intend to attend to all the historical accuracies to write my story. I mean, if Mr. Boule could get away with gross inaccuracy in his classic (and David Lean in his Academy Award-winning film), then I certainly am allowed to exercise certain creative licenses with my fictional work. Still, I want to get things right, at least the spirit and environment so I can suspend my readers' disbelief a while longer.

Certainly writing a novel set against historical events has been a challenge for me. At times I wonder if I'm biting more than I can chew. At times, however, the information I gathered and the plot ideas that germinated from the research were exhilarating. If nothing else, I've learned so much.

500 words today, 2500 words total
359 days, 183000 words to go

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Day 5

It's been a lazy day, and I mean, LAZY day. Slept in, lingered in bed, had something to eat, went back to bed, lounged, did nothing kind of lazy.

But you know, that kind of life is good. I do think sometimes we are WAY too busy. Trying to cram too much in our lives, trying to do everything, be everything to everyone, and have way too many responsibilities and duties and obligations and what have you. It's really nice to be able to get that off the table and just relax and be ourselves. Just for a moment focus on your own needs and your own center. If only just a brief moment.


Yup, I'm up and I'm ready to go. LOL. Have a dinner party in about two hours, though, so I'm not sure what I can get done in the meantime. Still, I'm determined to see this challenge through so I suppose I will have to burn the midnight oil to get some words down. Since I said "writing crap" was allowed, can I just write 500 words of gibberish?

I guess not.


Just got back for an evening out with friends, dinner, etc. and I'm full. The sad thing is, it's already after midnight so technically speaking, the day is done, and my word count is 0. ZERO. So, I failed to meet today's challenge. But that's okay. Life is not a race and the daily quota is a guideline, not a death sentence (okay, what did I say about "excuses"?) I'll absolutely have to make up for it this weekend.

0 words today, 2000 words so far
360 days and 183500 words to go

Friday, August 14, 2009

Day 4

Today is travel day, and that means I don't get a lot of time or energy writing. Not to mention I had an audition today so that also cut into my writing schedule...

Oh, all right, enough excuses.

I know how excuses work. We'd start with a bit of reasoning, a bit of logic, and a whole truckload of justification... for our procrastination and laziness. I remember a friend of mine told me once, "The reason why people don't work out or do the things they said they'd do is they leave a tiny window open. And all it takes is a tiny window for the air to get out."

And this:

"When you feel an inkling of making an excuse for not going to the gym, just GO!"

I've found that piece of advice works great, and not just for working out. Certainly like anyone else, I have a problem with procrastination. I used to dread going to the gym and I'd give myself all kinds of excuses not to: too tired, too busy, too hungry, too late, too early, blah blah blah. But that piece of advice up there, as simple as it is, really works. The second I think about "too tired... too busy..." I just put the clothes in the bag and hop in the car. It works EVERY frigging time.

So here I am, trying to make up an excuse to not write today. Too tired, too busy, too late... true, true and probably true, but they are still excuses. I have to remind myself why I am doing this. And also this:

500 words are NOT that many.

Just do it.

500 words today, 2000 words so far
361 days, 183500 words to go

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day 3

11:36 a.m. Today is Thursday, and Thursday is usually the day of the week when I crash. By that I mean I usually get slightly depressed, listless, overwhelmed or simply meh in general. So far, so good. I have a full day scheduled: things to do, stuff to get, including the 500 words I need to write today. I haven't started on those words, yet, obviously. We'll see.

11:50 a.m. It's really kind of strange, kind of like a biorhythm clock but on a weekly schedule. Every week, by the time Wednesday or Thursday rolls around, give or take a half-day or so, my mood would plummet. There were times when I didn't want to get out of bed in the morning at all. Fortunately, I'm used to this and I can often see that happening, and then make an effort to lift myself up by the afternoon. Sometimes I'd feel completely paralyzed until way past 4 p.m. but eventually I'd come out of it. I wonder if anyone has similar experiences. But anyway, it's now 11:50 and I'm doing okay. No crushing depression or broodiness yet.

That may all change when I have to get my hair cut.

1:48 p.m. Not much of a lunch break and I need to get my hair cut. It's long overdue (pun intended). Sometimes I do wonder why I don't cut my hair more frequently. usually by the third week, my hair would be almost unmanageable and I hate to put three tons of hair products on it. I'm the kind of "wash, dry and go" kind of guy. The least I have to deal with my hair, the better. However, I look awful with a buzz cut so super-short, super-wash-and-dry hair is out of the question. I also have straight hair, so long hair is also out of the question. That gives me a montly window of maybe about three weeks of manageable hair. But why oh why do I always wait so long to get a cut? Days since last cut: 45 days. Yup, I think it's time for the scissors.

5:15 p.m. Finally I get to work on the WIP. First I feel I need to expand on an earlier scene. Something is missing: something important. I also had kind of an epiphany of what needs to be added, another small twist that would make things even more intense. Now, I don't know if I'm overdoing this, but I think cranking up the dramatic quotient is never a bad thing -- I can always scale it back down. But I can't do any of that if I didn't write it.

What's nice about that is I just added another 300 words to that scene. 3/5 of my work done for the day.

7:05 p.m. writing about rape is no fun. I hate violence, especially violence against women and children, so I always seem to dread and avoid these scenes, but it has to be done. Now I'm spent and I need to find some food and get that stuff out of my head.

362 days, 184000 words to go

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Day 2

OK, 500 words may sound like a piece of cake -- I can easily "write" 2000 words a day babbling about anything -- but fiction-wise, it's not that easy.

Once again, today I was stuck with "trying to be writerly." I agonized over the word choices and sentence structures, and I found myself tweaking/editing what I wrote before I was done with the paragraph. Two hours later, I was still at 230 words. What the heck? That throughput was simply pathetic and frustrating.

So I said to myself, f*** it, I'm just going to write whatever that comes out of my mind. I started to visualize the scene, and think about the smells, sounds, etc., hoping to get myself into the trance-like fictive dream.

It didn't happen. I did manage to meet the quota of 500 words, but most of them were crappy words. But you know what? I did allow myself to write crap, so that's okay.

And before I forget: damn the Internet. I really should turn the sucker off. However, I needed to be online today, and I made $600 in trading. Not too bad.

... but what about your writing!? Whoaaaa!

My muse was not very happy.

In my defense, it was a tough scene to write today. It's a sexual assault. I really don't like scenes like that; they sicken me. I find it harder to get into the minds of my characters when they're doing something so opposite my own nature. However, as the writer, I know I must observe and report, and that's what I did. Slowly. A bit painfully.

363 days, 184500 words to go...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Day 1

So, it's a brand new day.

As I blogged earlier, I'm starting a new challenge to myself. I'm going to write at least 500 words a day, every day of the year. That's 365 days, and 185,500 words. Or about two good-sized novels. Or one epic.

The good news is, I'm already about 100,000 words into my WIP. So, by the end of next August, I should have two novels done, including the WIP. Sounds promising, isn't it?

The day started normally. A regular work day, a rather nice, hot day. By the time I was ready to write, I got to my favorite Starbucks trying to find a table with a power outlet. Alas, the only one left was next to this older gentleman who was there every day, who apparently had a stroke some time in his life, and who apparently liked to talk to strangers, rather loudly. I tried my best to be cordial, but I needed to work. Fortunately, he got the drift and left me alone.

A grande mocha frap by my side, I began the Tuesday writing routine with my movie review. I was going to review Julie and Julia, the Nora Ephron film about Julia Child, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. It was a pretty good film, and I enjoyed it. However, what came out of that viewing experience and review was something else. I got inspired. Thus came about the "500 Words Every Day" challenge.

After I was done with the review (which was about 650 words, by the way) and sent it off to my editor, I opened my WIP file. I was actually a little embarrassed to realize the "Last Modified" timestamp of the file was August 5, 2009. Has it already been 6 days since I last worked on it? Whew! This challenge couldn't come sooner. I was ready to get to work.

I have to say, once I had a purpose (and sort of a deadline), the motivation seemed to appear out of nowhere. Granted, the words didn't necessarily come effortlessly; I still struggled. But it helped that I'd thought about this particular scene for a few weeks. In this scene, the heroine is having a moment to herself, after learning a big secret from a man she considers a friend, who is a Japanese soldier (the story happens during the Pacific War). It's a quiet scene but filled with emotions: loneliness, yearning, wistful thinking, and sensuality. I was pleased by how the scene worked out, and was able to end it with the first line of the next scene...

In a way, that made me really uneasy, because I know what has to come next: an attack. It's not going to be fun to write since I get emotionally attached to my characters, and the next scene is going to be gut-wrenching. Still, I was surprised and pleased by some of the things that came to my mind... little details that would make the scene so much better: props, for example. Things that were there all along but now I have better use for them. It's amazing how something ordinary could turn extraordinary when you look at it from another perspective.

But anyway, I was able to meet my daily quota of 500 words. So it was definitely a good start.

364 days, 185000 words to go

Writing a novel...

When you think about it, writing a novel seems so daunting. It took me almost two years to write my first one. It's taken me almost four years to write this one. At times, it really does seem impossible, especially to those who have never written a novel before. So many things to think about: characters, plot, point of views, pacing, prose, dialogue... Whoa!

Then again, now I think about it, it's simply a matter of discipline and allowing oneself to write less than perfectly. Or just crap. For a while I was able to do that, to just write every day even if it was crap. I used to joke with my writer pals that my WIP was tentatively and affectionately entitled Crap, the Novel (CTN). A couple of years later, CTN is no longer called CTN, and I've lost that spirit of "just write, even if it's crap." I've gone back to trying to act all writerly again, and it wasn't working.

Let's face it: It's not really that hard. I have the story in my head already. I know where the plot is going. I know these characters as if they were real. So what is the problem? So what if my prose comes out flat and unattractive? That's what rewrites are for. I can't rewrite unless I have words on the pages, not in my head.

And think about it this way: 500 words a day isn't really that much, especially if "quality" isn't the ultimate criterion. 500 words a day means 185,500 words in 365 days. That's practically two or three novels in a year, or one epic son of a bitch. Even if half of it was utter crap, and there's a good possibility that it is, I'd still end up with 92,000 words of material. That's one novel a year... instead of half a novel in four years.

Think about it. It's only a matter of Math (and yes, I know Math isn't everyone's favorite subject). You don't have to be too ambitious. You don't have to write 1000, or 2000 words a day. Just 500. That's a very attainable and sustainable goal. The tough part is "500 words, every day." That's where discipline comes into play. It doesn't matter if you're sick, tired, busy, or on vacation. 500 words a day.

Does it still sound that impossible?

(Unnecessary) Stuff that Writers Obsess Over...

Yes, I've been there before, but now I can look back and chuckle. And I can cringe at other writers asking the same questions. Seriously, folks, just write, and fudge about these silly questions (at least not until you're ready to submit)! And honestly, a lot of these questions would be answered if the writer had read a wide range of published fiction.

TOP TEN questions aspiring writers ask that simply don't matter in the grand scheme of things:

10. Can I change point of view characters?
9. Should I italicize or underline thoughts?
8. Should I have a prologue/Epilogue?
7. Am I mixing tenses if I use participial clauses in past tense?
6. Must my character be likable?
5. I need to change my characters' names, but they are perfect, what should I do?
4. What font should I use when I WRITE?
3. How do I indicate a scene change?
2. How long should a scene be?
... and
1. How long should a chapter be?

The 500 Words A Day Challenge

OK, I understand the concept of BIC (butt in chair) and putting words on the page, in theory. I really do. Only recently did I really get the concept of "allowing yourself to write crap," in practice.

After watching the movie Julie and Julia, in which the main character decided to go through all the recipes in Julia Child's cookbook in a year and blog about it, I am inspired. I always knew I needed a deadline, and sometimes I was successful in imposing that deadline on myself, but more often than not, I failed.

So, I have a thought. Why not make it a challenge and blog about it? I have this blog, which I've kept going, on and off, for the past five years. Why not use it for something more worthwhile. Would anyone read this? Who cares? No one reads it now, but I've got to do something for myself, and stick with it.

Here's my pledge to myself and my few readers: I'm going to write at least 500 words a day (not counting blog posts, Facebook or Twitter updates), even if they are crap. And then I'm going to blog about the day's work: the ups and downs, thoughts, ideas, what I discover, how I feel about the words, etc. And hopefully this challenge would motivate me to keep going and keep my creative juices flowing. Who knows? Maybe someone could chime in once in a while and give me ideas, too.

And... the clock starts now.

Date: August 11, 2009
365 days left
185,500 words left

Monday, August 10, 2009

Amen, Patricia

I want to repost author (LOTTERY) Patricia Wood's blog post because I agree with her:

What shall I talk about? I know. This could also be titled "be careful what you wish for you just may get it..."
I have many people email me asking for writing, agenting, and publishing help. Generally they want me to read their manuscript and offer it to my agent or editor. Sometimes they want writing help or advice. Sometimes they want me to share the secret of getting published...hey if I told them it wouldn't be a secret anymore. I took an oath yanno.
The thing is...there are rules.
1. Authors don't have very much time. They have to stare at their blank computer screen, pet their cats, organize their desk, oh and write. If they read your manuscript then they don't have as much time to do all that.

2. If you want a favor from me AT LEAST READ MY FRIGGING BOOK...Okay? And I mean BUY A COPY!! Don't tell me you intend to read it or you are going to check it out of the library. And if you are going to lie at least get your facts straight. "I loved LOTTERY because I thought it was scary - especially when they stoned her to death."
If you say that I know that you have me and Shirley Jackson mixed up. HINT: My book LOTTERY does not have cliff notes yet.

3. So you want advice. And if something in your letter resonates with me and I happen to have a couple minutes I might give you some. Like...write everyday... find good beta readers WHO ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS. If you choose to use an editor then find a good one with PUBLISHING experience if you need help with your manuscript. Attend writers conferences and retreats. Find a writers group.

4. If you ask me what I did then I will tell you. I will be honest. I attended the Hawaii Writers Retreat and Conference. I kept writing. I found readers and editor who were NOT MY FRIENDS and I took criticism happily, readily,with good humor, and not defensively...(Thank you sir may I have another?)

5. FEEDBACK: All feedback is useful. I repeat. ALL FEEDBACK IS USEFUL.
Why? Writing is subjective. What resonates with one person will not resonate with another but listen to it. Know when to implement feedback and when to set it aside.
DON'T say it wasn't what I had in mind. Or is was a bag of twat. Sometimes twat is what is needed to make a story pop (okay that was deco-speak but you know what I mean).

6. If you really want me to help you then get to know me, comment on my blog, post on my facebook page. Let me know that you enjoy what I have to offer and aren't just interested in using me then moving on...If you wonder why authors sometimes are a bit gun shy then that's why. They meet another interesting writer and then BAM!!!! (think Emeril)the writer moves on when we say we can't read their manuscript.

I hope this doesn't sound harsh. It's not meant to be. I can't help but draw parallels between being an author and my father's lottery win. It changes people's attitudes, changes their opinion of you and suddenly you're a cynic.

As a published writer, I'd like to pay it forward, but in a perfect world, there's no such thing as free lunch. Oftentimes, as I'm eager to help or mentor new writers, my feeding hand tends to get bitten, or sometimes I feel like I'm being taken advantage of. Just like what Patricia said, if a writer's so inclined to ask for advice, suggestions, or a critique, "buy my frigging book!" Not just "I may buy it later" or "I may check it out at the library." Buy the fraking book -- we authors don't live on good vibes or "I may buy your book." We live on royalties. If nobody buys our books we probably wouldn't be writing. So support your authors, especially if you think they're good enough to give you writing advice.

It's just common courtesy, I think. I would never think of asking a writer for help if I have no intention of buying or reading his or her books. Personally, I do think it's rude. In the past, I had writers asking me all kinds of questions from writing to editing to publishing, and they have not read a single word of my novel, nor were they planning on doing so. So what gives, people? How do you know I'm a good writer worthy to give you advice if you don't want to read my work?

Also, be my friend or at least get to know me. I really, really, really hate it when writers come to me, ask for advice or a crit, then either after I helped them, or refused, they split. Never hear from them again. WTF? Seriously, nobody -- and I mean NOBODY -- likes to feel used. That's why I now have a policy: I won't read or critique your work if I don't know you. It's harsh. It's probably a bit rude on my part, but I don't have a lot of time to offer to someone who just wants to use me. I'll do anything for a good friend. But I'm no loser for users.

A Bunch of Stories

After getting two short stories ("Better Safe Than Sorry" and "The Coins") published in, like, 5 years, I decided to self-publish a collection of nine short stories. I simply have no time to keep marketing the shorts as I'm busy working on my novels. That said, I enjoy writing the short stories and will continue to do so.

The short stories are of many different genres -- I tried not to limit myself. Literary, horror, fantasy, paranormal, contemporary, children, suspense, romance... I also have one science fiction piece but it's not quite ready yet. Perhaps I'll include it in the second edition.

A Bunch of Stories is now available on for the Kindle (or Kindle on iPhone/iPod Touch -- if you haven't already, download the free app from Apple App Store!), as well as a paperback (and downloadable version) on Individual stories are also in Kindle format on

Paperback (6x9")

Kindle/Kindle on iPhone (eBook)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Michael C. Hall!

Just found out that one of my colleagues' book, Douglas Light's East Fifth Bliss (also published by Behler), is being made into a movie with my favorite actor, Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under) as the lead:

Read this Variety article for details.

Way cool!

Kindle, Here I Come!

The Pacific Between (Kindle Edition) is now available!

Here's the link.

If you don't have a Kindle but you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can download the Kindle for iPhone app and read Kindle books.