02 March 2015

#BuqoYA: Done!

Yay! February was truly a fruitful month---I managed to finish another story :-) *does a happy dance*

Late last year, I decided to sign up for the #BuqoYA online writing class organized and mentored by author Mina V.Esguerra and sponsored by Filipino online bookstore Buqo. It was a month-long class with the goal of writing 5,000 words of young adult fun. It totally rocked!

Seriously. Be Careful What You Wish For took me ages to finish. So I am over-the-moon-kilig that I was able to finish a novella in a month!

Just to share (and also, so I don’t forget), here’s how I did it:

1.    Prep up
Although the class ran for a month, Mina had us reading and watching books and movies of the genre to get us in the mood. This part was really fun! Most of the movies she assigned were old favorites (Freddie Prinze, Jr.! Ethan Hawke! Dingdong Dantes!). And though most of the readings she assigned were new to me, they were really fun reads!

2.    Craft your characters
Mina advised us to do this before the class started. I’m a Gen X-er, so I use slambooks to get to know my characters better. Yes, I even write down their mottoJust Always Pray At Nightkidding! But seriously, I like to make a sheet per character (including likes, dislikes, family, friends, and pegs for physical appearance etc.) then I print them out and refer to them while I’m writing. And if something additional comes up, I just make a note of it on their file. That way I don't have to constantly open and close files on the computer while I’m writing.

3.    End it!
Once the class started, we were divided into groups and asked to tackle specific tropes. So, although I had several storylines running through my head (as I wasn't sure which group I’d be in), I had to nail my story down and write a synopsis that included the ending.
Planning the ending was probably the best advice I’ve ever received. Seriously.
I’ve done NaNoWriMo more years than I care to count, but I’ve only ever finished one novel. Why? Because although NaNo encourages you to write (50k words in a month!), it doesn't require you to finish (editing is reserved for another month). Having a goal made things easier for me, because at least I knew what I was writing towards. It helped me plan my chapters and further craft my characters. And it helped me finish!

4.    Plan, plan, plan
Since I already had an ending in mind, it was easier to plan the chapters logically. When I started, only the last two chapters (and fragments of the first one) were clear in my mind. I made an outline of the chapters and wrote in bullet points what I wanted to achieve within each one. Of the original ten chapters I planned for, only seven went as planned, the other three I had to move around and expand, and I had to add an epilogue. But it’s easier to flesh the story out once the outline is done.
Also, throughout the class, Mina sends us really helpful (and timely) tips and articles, and they *really* help and inspire :-)

5.    Write first, edit later
This is one of the good habits I got from NaNo. I know that I’m an overly verbose writer (my Eng101A prof actually told me that) and that I would not be contented with 5k, so I planned for at least 10k. Once my synopsis was approved, I formulated a rough writing schedule. I allotted ten days for pure writing, with 1.5k as my daily word count goal. The chapter outlines helped a lot. I’m not the type of writer who finishes one chapter before proceeding to the next. I write what I feel like writing at that particular moment. So one day I’ll be writing chapter nine, and the next day I’ll be fleshing out chapter five or adding tidbits to chapter three and seven.
Managing two kids and the household chores takes an amazing amount of time, so I try to squeeze in a few minutes of writing when I can. That’s why I love writing sprintsjust typing whatever comes to mind, without checking for errors or grammar. The idea here is to get as much of my thoughts into actual written words. I’ve found that it’s easier to edit / rewrite when you have enough material. Plus, I’ve found that a lot of characters ‘come to life’ during these times. When I review what I’ve written after a sprint, I’m often surprised and delighted.

6.    Make writing a daily habit
Whether on your laptop, notebook, or even on your smartphone, try to type in a few words or phrases every time an idea pops up. Ideas pop up at the most inconvenient of times, so be ready. I personally love the Notes app on the iPhone, I just mail everything to myself afterwards. Similar to my NaNo experience, I wasn't able to religiously follow my daily word count goal (some days I’d have a measly 300, and on others I’d average 2k), but I made it a point to write each day.

7.    Set deadlines within deadlines
Learn to embrace the pressure of deadlines. I personally think that Mina gave us enough time to work on our submissions. She had mentioned early on that she’d ask us to submit whatever we had sometime in the middle of the class, so after the tenth day, I started editing the first few chapters in preparation. This also gave me time to assess what chapters I needed to work on and if the story was going in the general direction I wanted it to.

8.    Have a ready circle of beta readers
Although I had a circle of beta readers, they were mostly my ageand let’s just say that we’re a few years older than the young adult genre I’m trying to write. So when I had the manuscript read by . . . um, younger people . . . their opinions and views were really eye-opening. So I guess it pays to have your story read by your target audience before the final edit :-)

9.    Edit!
It is true what they sayyour work says a lot about you. So if you’re getting cross-eyed trying to catch errors, have a friend look at it or have it professionally edited after.

10. Eat cake
Seriously. The day I sent the story to Mina, I made brownies. Hahaha! 
But even if I still have to do the final edits, I cannot help but feel a sense of achievement that I finished something . . . in a month! Yatta! I seriously want to go to the eat-all-you-can dessert place in Shibuya. Anyone want to come with me? Iku iku, go, go! :-)

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Now I’m signed up for the #SparkNA writing class that will run from April-June, which will also be hosted by Mina. This one is sponsored by Spark Books / Anvil Publishing. Hihihi! Nakaka-addict pala! For more info, visit Mina's FaceBook page.

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Please watch out for my new book, When Cocoy Became Kikay :-)


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