10 Chapters In

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Tea and JournalI hit a writing milestone this week with my current book, Destination Happiness – I am officially 10 chapters into writing this bad boy!!! As of now, that equates to just under 29,000 words. My goal is the 80-90K words range, which I think is definitely doable with my rough outline of 23 chapters.

I’m doing something I’ve never done before in writing fiction, and that’s to really focus more on characters, dialogue, and driving the plot, and less on the settings and details for the first go ‘round. As a control freak plagued by perfectionism, it’s tough to just gloss over parts, but it’s also kind of liberating. I feel like I am trusting myself to write what needs to come out now, knowing that I will be able to go back and beef up the minutia when it’s time to get in the every-little-detail-counts head space.

As a refresher, the synopsis of my story is:

Prompted by the death of a loved one and general discontent in her life, a woman leaves behind everything she knows and sets out on a road trip of self-discovery.

Basically, it’s Eat, Pray, Love meets Wild 🙂

When I first started brainstorming on this book, I began to map out my character’s road trip. There’s a slew of destinations and sites throughout the story, and although it was initially fun to plan this fictional trip, when I actually started to write, I was getting caught up in the “travel logistics” and all of the details of places I’ve never been before. Well, most of them, there are some destinations in the story where I’ve personally visited. Still, I kept interrupting my writing flow to stop and do research on places, and it was stressing me out to the point of not wanting to work on this project.

Luckily, I gave myself a creative intervention and realized that my main priority is just to write the damn story, and I can worry about prettying it up later.

Which is exactly what I’m doing. And, here I am, 10 chapters later! I’ve never written this quickly on one of my own stories (although I’ve already completed quite a few writing projects with my screenwriting partner). It feels really good to know that I can focus on my own book and actually make progress on it.

Here’s to another 13 chapters!

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That Time I Was Anti Harry Potter

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HP Books

I know, my bookshelves are hot af.

Lately my social feeds and favorite news sources have been flooded with headlines reflecting on the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter, and just reminiscing on my own personal history with the fandom has me all sorts of nostalgic. Anyone who knows me and my fangirl ways would probably just assume that I’m a HP fangirl, and although I am, that wasn’t always the case.

::cue dramatic music::

I was a teenager when Harry Potter became the it thing. I was also (and still am) a bit of a rebel, so although I loved to read, I refused to read the books simply because everyone else was reading them. I was sick of hearing my friends talk about them and decided to stubbornly stay as far away from the HP bandwagon as I could.

Until weeks before the release of the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

My childhood best friend was an avid Harry Potter fan. Just before the release of the fifth book, she begged me–one final time–to just give the books a try: “Please just try the first book, and if you don’t like it, I’ll never talk about Harry Potter to you again.” Irritated, but wanting to make her happy, I did give the first book a try. And within four days, I had borrowed and read all four books. By release day of book 5, I was attending the midnight release party at my local Borders, and I owned the other four books.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Poster

Said German Draco Malfoy poster.

For years thereafter, Harry Potter topped my fangirl favs list. I’m talking midnight release parties, reading the books aloud to my siblings (my character voices are awesome, if I do say so myself), buying all sorts of memorabilia (my prized possession being a German Draco Malfoy poster), and applying and being accepted (via sorting) to a infamous Harry Potter livejournal community (I was sorted into Gryffindor, although Slytherin was a close call).

Since I’m a huge (and unrepentant) nerdbomber, it’s fun to look back on my Harry Potter days. So, without further ado:

Harry Potter Highlights From the Life O’ Pam

  • Fanfiction: I dipped my toes in the pool of fanfiction thanks to Harry Potter. I know a lot of people roll their eyes at fanfiction, but as a fledgling writer, there is no better way to improve and gain confidence. Fanfiction was the first time I shared my writing with anyone, and it helped me grow more confident in my talent and learn to adhere to deadlines (because you can’t leave readers hanging too long for a new chapter!).
  • HP OTP: Speaking of fanfiction, my HP one true pairing was Draco Malfoy/Ginny Weasely. I know, I know, impossible in canon, but in fandom…well, talk about a following! She was the fire to his ice! They were the modern day Romeo and Juliet! Oh, the possibilities!
  • Goblet of Fire Movie Premiere: So, I may have attended the GoF movie premiere in NYC. It may or may not have been INSANE. I will never do something like that again, but it was a pretty cool once-in-a-lifetime experience. People were crazy, there were hundreds of fans lining up on the street hours and hours in advance. My friends and I took the train in at about 4AM for an early evening premiere. Although we weren’t as close the the red carpet as I had hoped (we were across the street), I did get a photo and signed movie poster of Katie Leung  (aka Cho Chang).
  • Sirius Denial: Sirius Black was and will always be one of my favorite Harry Potter characters. I know he was a hot head. I know he was terrible to teenage!Snape. But, well, I have a thing for bad boys, especially bad boys with motorcycles. #sorrynotsorry Also, in book 5, it sure as hell didn’t seem like he was hit with the killing curse, just saying. It was a RED flash, okay!? Needless to say, when they changed it to green in the movie, I was not happy.
  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: I’m convinced that the second time my family went to Disney was solely for the purpose of me visiting the HP theme park. And um, it was awesome. I can’t even tell you what it felt like to walk down streets that resembled Diagon Alley and stand in front of a Hogwarts replica. Oh em gee. I’m sure you can imagine the amount of shopping I did in that park haha. A couple of wands here, a leather bound journal there. Sigh. I’d like to go back ASAP.
  • Writing Inspiration: I fell in love with the world and writing of Harry Potter, and I fell hard. I was immersed in this fandom as a late teen into my early twenties, and silly as it may seem, my love for these books helped to further validate my desire to be a writer. Rowling has such a great rags to riches story, and even back then, I found it truly inspirational. One of my favorite things about the Harry Potter series is that you can see how Rowling progressed as a writer. More so than the actual writing was the imagination that went into the HP books. Rowling created such a nuanced world filled with hundreds of different characters. She had threads, so many threads, of plot and subplot woven throughout the series. The aspiring writer in me was in awe of the intricacy of her writing and the way she brought so many things–things that seemed extremely minor at first mention–full circle. I remember thinking, how did she do that? How did a quick mention of something in book one or two turn into THIS in book five or six? And now, as a writer, I see that it actually comes naturally. It happens when you dive deep into your story and characters. But back then, before I understood this, well, it was magic 🙂

Holy novel length blog post, Batman! I suppose you can see how dear the Harry Potter world is to me. J.K. Rowling has created something amazing and inspiring – a story and characters that have touched and mesmerized millions of people around the world. And now, I need to bust out my calendar and start planning a Harry Potter marathon, both reading and watching, because it’s been far too long since I last got lost in the halls of Hogwarts.

Perfectionism: Every Writer’s Archenemy

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chalkboardI’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 12-years-old, and at this point, it’s a bit of an understatement to say that I have many, many story ideas. Some are novels and some are screenplays. The genres are varied – general fiction, young adult supernatural, comedy, drama, romance, young adult fantasy. Over the years, I’ve started to write at least half a dozen of these stories, but I’ve only ever completed a thriller novel and two screenplays (one drama, one comedy), all three of which were co-written with my writing partner. I always thought that accountability was the biggest block to actually finishing (and pitching!) my own books, but I’ve come to realize that the real problem–and my true archenemy–is perfectionism.

This isn’t a light-bulb revelation for me. Perfectionism is something that I’ve always struggled with in numerous facets of my life. But woo boy, it’s most definitely held me back the most when it comes to writing. To me, writing is like visiting another plane of existence. When I am in my creative zone, everything is so much more vivid. Time is fluid and meaningless. The only thing that matters is a steady flow of words that breathe life and soul into my characters and plot. The day that I finished writing the aforementioned thriller novel, I wrote the final six chapters in an uninterrupted 8-hour stretch. It actually kind of scared me, that the day got away from me so easily, but man was I pumped and feeling so accomplished afterwards.

Writers battling perfectionism is nothing new. I’ve read many articles on it. I’ve chatted with fellow writers about it. I’ve bemoaned it in my own journal more times than I can count. So, how does one overcome perfectionism in writing? I think the strategy depends on the writer. Some people may join a writing group or class to hold them accountable and provide daily support and encouragement. Others may embark on some sort of writing challenge. For me, there are a few things that come to mind so that I can conquer this annoying writing block once and for all:

  • Trust: I’m a new age woo woo type of spiritual person. I believe in the Universe as a divine source, I love soul searching, and I’m constantly trying to connect to my higher self for wisdom and guidance. So, all of that being said, I need to actually trust that these story ideas have come to me for a reason, and that reason is that I am meant to write them. And, ya know, finish them.
  • Focus and commit: I constantly lose momentum in whichever writing project I’m currently working on and then switch to a different project. I tell myself it’s because I’m just not aligned with that story at that moment, so I should move on to something else that excites me more. Besides, that way I’m at least writing, right? Wrong. I need to actually focus and commit to ONE story idea, start to finish. A few blog posts ago, I wrote about a new story idea that I had, and I went a good six weeks with writing on it daily. Then I started to harshly judge everything I was writing as complete and total shit (hello, perfectionism!), which of course made me lose motivation. So I switched to a young adult story I started (and never finished) years ago. And the same thing happened all over again – I was gung ho writing daily on it for a few weeks, then started to hate what I was producing, and now I don’t want to work on that story any more. So, I now commit to focus on my newest novel idea, Destination Happiness, and pour everything I have into it.
  • Just write already: Like, for real, Pam. Just write already. Stop making up excuses. Yes, it is super challenging to find the time and energy to write when I have a high stress and all-consuming day job. That is my reality. BUT, I can get back into the habit of reserving my Saturday or Sunday for writing. In fact, I can look forward to that date with my imagination, because I know that once I actually sit down and surrender to story, I feel good. It makes me happy.

Writing is the thing that lights me up. It’s part of who I am. So no more allowing perfectionism to take my muse hostage. I have tons of story ideas–fun, relatable story ideas–that I want to share with others. So I will write, and I will write often. I will finish my latest book. And if that book is then pitched and published and results in loads of cash and my gleeful escape from the harrowing 9-to-5 grind, then all the better.

Take that, perfectionism.

New Book Idea

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img_4900For the past few years, all of my spare time has been focused on screenwriting with my writing partner, Jess. Prior to this partnership, I had always wanted to be a novelist, an aspiration that goes way back to my preteen years. But when Jess approached me with a story idea that I couldn’t resist, our partnership was born, and it eventually evolved into a comedy screenwriting adventure that I love more than words can do justice. It was how I spent all of my free time, and my own novel writing endeavors were moved to the back burner.

Until now.

Not only have I learned how to juggle a full-time job and various writing endeavors, but I finally, gleefully, blessedly was struck by a new book idea over the holidays. For months, I felt ready for a new idea. All of my past novel concepts were Young Adult fiction–supernatural and fantasy–and although I love that genre and hope to revel in it one day, I just wanted something different. Something grown up. And I got it:

Prompted by the death of a loved one and general discontent in her life, a woman leaves behind everything she knows and sets out on a road trip of self-discovery.

Think Eat, Pray, Love meets On the Road. But this idea goes beyond wishy washy chick lit, because ::shivers in disgust:: I would never. This is about a journey from day-to-day misery to tragic loss to an urgency to live to doing just that. As an aspiring writer, I’ve heard one bit of advice over and over again: write what you know. Obviously, I didn’t know YA supernatural and/or fantasy lifestyles, but I could imagine them. But for this new idea, I can pull from my own experiences and also write about what I’d like to experience.

Another facet of this idea that I am super excited about is diversity. My cast of characters will be all over the map: white, black, hispanic, straight, gay, and transgender. I want to represent all different types of people. I want to show love and friendship across different scopes and challenges.

I am SO STOKED for this book. I was able to completely outline it and develop my cast in two days. So now, now the fun part begins – I can start to write this story. And, although it’s only a working title, I’ve decided to call it Destination Happiness. Simple and–I hope–relatable.

When I Knew I Wanted to be a Writer

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img_4913I always knew that I wanted to be a writer, but I wasn’t able to pinpoint the exact moment or thing that ignited this desire until recently. My favorite book is Swan Song by Robert McCammon. It’s been one of my favorites since I was twelve, and that’s saying a lot because I am and always have been an avid reader. In fact, in middle school I was notorious for having a new book to read nearly every day. We had daily Sustained Silent Reading in English class, and I would be in the library a couple of times a week looking for a new book to read.

My parents were not big readers, but they did encourage my passion for it. When I was twelve, they both had just finished reading Swan Song and were raving about it. Although it was an adult book (it’s postapocalyptic with traces of horror, supernatural, and fantasy as well as a whole lot of adult content), they still encouraged me to read it, so I did. I remember struggling with the first 60 pages or so, as they are very political and not the least bit interesting to a preteen, but I powered through. Then I was hooked.

After that, I read Swan Song annually. That is until college, when classes and part-time work took precedence over leisurely reading. Then adulthood happened, and I was in the real world, which boasted a lot of 9-5 parameters and even less time for reading for fun. Still, I spoke of the book often, and it was my go to reading recommendation to any and everyone.

Last year around New Year’s, I decided that one of my resolutions would be to read more in 2016, and I wanted to start off with a reread of Swan Song. So that’s how I spent my spare time the first couple of weeks in January. Any moment I had to myself, I was reading McCammon’s book. I spent the last 50 pages of the book silently crying as I read, because I was so overwhelmed by McCammon’s brilliance. His story is a masterpiece, a beautiful masterpiece. But more so than that, it made me remember. And realize.

This was the book that turned me from reader to aspiring writer.

This is the story that swept me away so ardently, that I knew I needed to try my hand at creating my own story and characters. I wanted to do what McCammon did. I wanted to write something that would impact others the way his writing impacted me. Swan Song reminded me of who I was, who I am now, and who I want to become. An aspiring writer, a determined writer, a successful writer.

When I finally put down the book, still overwhelmed with emotions and this realization, I looked up Robert McCammon on Twitter and tweeted to him about my love and awe for the book. And, do you know what happened moments later? He retweeted my message.

I don’t believe in coincidences, so I took this as a sign (albeit silly to some) and a weighty validation. This was the universe’s way of telling me that my realization and the passion and new-found drive to succeed that it inspired is not only real but encouraged. Writing really is my path, and I would be foolish not to pursue it.

So, here we are. Pursuing 🙂

Fangirl Fav: The Lord of the Rings

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img_2693I was sick over New Year’s and sadly missed my scheduled NYE plans, but instead of moping and feeling sorry for myself, I decided to start a 3-night rewatch of The Lord of the Rings movies. The extended editions, of course, because I do not mess around with my fangirl favs.

I fell in love with The Lord of the Rings (LotR) by accident. I’d heard of the books of course, but had always kind of rebelled against them because long, and my mean 8th grade Algebra teacher had dogs named Bilbo and Frodo. I could not possibly like something that he enjoyed. And yet, years later when FotR was released and my dad picked up the VHS (yes, you read that right) at Acme on a whim…well, the rest, as they say, is history.

LotR was probably my first completely-obsessed-with-fangirl fav movie (the TV show equivalent is Buffy the Vampire Slayer). I’ve had other books, movies, and TV shows that I’ve adored over the years, but LoTR hit around the time the internet started to get big, and I remember actually having countdowns until the trailers were released online. Not even the movie release date, first was the trailer release. And then I would watch it over and over again and make everyone I knew (who wouldn’t judge me too harshly) watch it too. Then came the movie releases. I saw both TTT and RotK in the theater three times each, and still, to this day, I mourn the fact that I never viewed FotR in theaters 😦

The movies, as anyone (and I hope that means everyone) who has seen them knows, are epic. In fact, I wish I could think of a more impressive and celebratory word than “epic” to describe them. They are insanely well cast (thank god for that whole Viggo Mortensen was a last minute replacement stroke of luck), visually stunning, obviously made with love and reverence, and everything good movies should be (albeit a little long – come on, I’m not delusional). They also brought about a new self-discovery: how much I love the shooting and production side of movies. The DVDs/blurays are filled with hours upon hours of interviews with director Peter Jackson, the producers, the cast, special effects geniuses, composer Howard Shore, and everyone else who was involved in the creation of the films. I spent so many hours watching that footage, being completely immersed and in awe of the love and work that went into the LotR trilogy.

Which is why it’s both funny and duh-inducing that I’m now an aspiring screenwriter. As if I really had a choice 😉

So falling sick recently was a blessing in disguise, as it reintroduced my once loved annual tradition of rewatching the LotR movies. In closing, I’ll just list, in chronological order, some of my favorite moments in the LotR trilogy (sidenote, my original list was 34082340 items long, so I’ve sadly cut it):

  • The formation of the Fellowship at the end of the Council of Elrond. Sigh. I just ::flails:: Such an epic moment!
  • Boromir redeeming himself at the end of the first movie. His parting line to Aragorn still gets me every single time: “I would have followed you, my brother, my captain, my king.”
  • The reveal of Gandalf the Sparkly White.
  • Gandalf, Eomer, and the Rohirrim arriving at the end of the battle to kick orc/urukhai ass!
  • Gandalf and Pippin arriving to Minas Tirith and riding Shadowfax up to the top of the city while Howard Shore’s epic “Minas Tirith” plays in the background.
  • Gandalf using his sparkly white staff of light and magic to ride out and save the soldiers fleeing the Nazgul. And Faramir! My Gondorian bae!
  • Theoden and the Rohirrim arriving at Pelennor Fields to join the battle. Makes me cry every time!
  • Aragorn going all badass king-to-be on the King of the Dead: “You will suffer me!”
  • Aragorn leading the army to the Black Gates. His speech. His head chopping. I can’t.
  • Everyone’s reaction to the fall of Sauron. Ugh. Perfection.
  • At the end of Aragorn’s coronation, when the hobbits bow to him, and he replies: “My friends, you bow to no one.” Then he and the ENTIRE country, plus some, bow to those furry-footed princes. Staaaahp.
  • And, finally, Gandalf’s goodbye to the hobbits, “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”

P.S. I love The Lord of the Rings books as well. In fact, I did a 3-credit independent study on them my senior year of college, ‘cause nerd 😉