Tag Archives: Writing

An Excerpt From My WIP!

7f0fd5177658b000d1ae168b63c1503aI’ve finished the crap draft rough draft of my historical fiction set in feudal Korea (the Joseon Dynasty, 1800). I haven’t felt so enchanted and so lost in a world for quite some time, as I’ve spent years working on Night Flower, which has come to feel more like an essay I really enjoy revising.

Also, because it’s been a while since I fell ‘head over heels’ in love with a story since Night Flower, at first I was worried this story wouldn’t work out like the two other novels I attempted to write (the first one I finished drafting but didn’t like. The second one I couldn’t get past the outlining stage). But with this WIP, my gut is telling me that I’ve found The Story. The positive signs:

  1. I finished the draft and still feel good about it.
  2. I am in love with the history. And this is so crucial for me. Research is what inspires much of my plot and character development.
  3. I wake up in the middle of the night with new plot ideas.
  4. I have an ending for this story that I like.
  5. I have a thesis theme for this story that I want to further explore.
  6. I can’t stop talking about this story.

Now that I have the bare, bare bones of the story set in place, it’s time to return to the first chapter and actually make this story readable. The challenges I’ve faced so far while writing this (and will continue to face) is the lack of resources. I mean, there’s tons of great books on Joseon Korea at my university libraries. But it’s not much compared to the massive resource available if I were to write another novel set in England. Also, certain materials I need for my novel (i.e. primary sources) have yet to be translated into English, so a good deal of my time is spent translating the Korean into English. It’s laborious, but it’s paying off.

I’m just having so much fun with this story.

Anyway, I wanted to share an excerpt from chapter one. But before I do, here’s a brief summary of the story (which, if you follow me on facebook, you’ve already read):

Seol, a seventeen-year-old slave girl in 19th century Korea, must assist Inspector Han when a Catholic woman is found dead with a strange symbol carved into her face. Together, they traverse from mud-covered alleys to exquisite mansions in search of a brutal killer.


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Chapter One

The dirt road outside the Eastern Palace usually clamored with life: women crowding the fish stalls, farmers carrying their produce, scholars with their silk robes, monks and traveling merchants. And there would always be a mob of children, faces burnt and glistening in the sticky heat, chasing after their rivals. But for the past few days the capital lay still under the heavy pall of silence, the entire kingdom mourning the king’s death.

“Feels like a ghost village…” My voice resounded, then silence returned, intensified by the rain pitter-pattering against black tiled roofs. I lowered the satgat over my face, a straw hat pointed at the top and wide at the brims, allowing the rain to dribble off. “What a strange and eerie day.”

“And the days will become stranger yet,” Officer Sunwou said. “They say that when King Chŏngjo died, an astonishing phenomena occurred.”

“What happened?”

“The rays of sunlight collided and burst into sparks, like fireworks. Then there came a terrible noise of weeping from Mount Samgak. It was a bad omen.” He eyed our grey surrounding as he adjusted his sash belt, worn around his black robe. “The old order has passed, and the new will come with a river of blood. From what I hear,” his voice lowered into a whisper, “the king was assassinated.”

I quickened my step to walk alongside him. “Assassinated?”

“By fatal poisoning.”

“Not from an illness?”

“Perhaps from an illness. But others say Sim Hwanji poisoned the king.”

“Who’s that?”

A sharp laugh escaped him. “You don’t know? How can you not!” He peered down at me, arching a thick and youthful brow. “Everyone knows. He’s the prime minister, the leader of the Old Doctrine’s Principle Faction.”

Old Doctrine, Principle. There were four major factional groupings, usually referred to as the four colors, but after the murder of the Crown Prince Sado in 1762, the established party lines had further split into sub-factions. Biting my lower lip, I frowned then offered a guess. “They’re the King’s rival faction, aren’t they?”

He snorted but remained silent, so I assumed that I was right. “Why would they poison the king. If the rumor is true, that is. What does the prime minister want?”

“Such a child you are. What’s the one thing everyone in the palace wants? To stabilize their shaky power.” He clucked his tongue and waved me away. “What use is it for a slave to know such things? And I’ve told you many times, a woman shouldn’t talk so much.”

Obediently, I retreated and followed in his shadow. He was right, of course. Among the seven sins a woman could commit, one was talking excessively. A man could even divorce his wife because of her chattiness.

I blamed my brother for this sin of mine, this longing to understand the world, to collect as much information as I could from the learned. For here in the capital, the scholars were not generous like Older Brother; no, they were self-willed, their knowledge like stubborn fishes, which when you seek to catch, will strike back at you.

“You there.”

I looked ahead. Investigator Han stood in the near distance, watching me from beneath the wide brim of his hat, the string of beads that strapped his chin trembling in the gust of rain. Behind him were two officers, the coroner’s assistant, and the clerks. The police artist was busily sketching something. As I hurried towards the Inspector, two officers spoke somewhere behind me:

“Found by a watchman.”

“When?”

“He was patrolling the West Gate, and at the end of his watch, there she was.”

I gathered my hands before me and bowed to Inspector Han, deeper than was necessary. He was to me the great spotted leopard from my village: the speedy and well-muscled hunter who excelled at climbing and jumping, and in slipping silently through the grass with scarcely a ripple.

“You called for me, nauri,” I said, addressing him by his honorific.

“Have a look at her.”

He was gesturing at a lump a few paces away. I walked towards the shadow of the weather-beaten fortress wall that enclosed Hanyang, the capital of Joseon, then clenched my teeth as my stomach turned to water. It was a woman. She lay sprawled, her face on the ground. A noblewoman by her dress and jacket, made of a closely-woven ramie cloth, beautifully patterned.

“Flip her around,” the Inspector ordered. “We have yet to see her wound.”

I stepped over the corpse, crouched, and grabbed her shoulder. This was why the Capital Police Bureau kept female slaves like me: I was an extension of police-officers, my hands used by them to arrest female criminals and to examine female victims. An inconvenience, but gentlemen were forbidden from touching women who were not directly related to them. It was the law, Confucius’ law.

[To be continued…]

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Writerly Endurance: Try again. Fail again. Fail better

The anxiety you feel after submitting a requested revision to an agent is paralyzing. Because with R&Rs, you’re oh-so-close to landing an agent, yet oh-so-close to falling back into the Query Trench.
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So that’s where I’m at right now — I sent the R&R and am now waiting for the agent’s response. How do I feel–knowing this is my second and final chance with Agent A? Initially, I was incredibly stressed (so much uncertainty, too many feelingsss!) until I picked up a book at the library and read this:
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I’ve heard it said that everything you need to know about life can be learned from watching baseball. I’m not what you’d call a sports fan, so I don’t know if this is true, but I do believe in a similar philosophy, which is that everything you need to know about life can be learned from a genuine and ongoing attempt to write…
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The writing life requires courage, patience, persistence, empathy, openness, and the ability to be alone with oneself. To be gentle with oneself. To look at the world without blinders on. To observe and withstand what one sees. To be disciplined, and at the same time, to take risks. To be willing to fail–not just once, but again and again, over the course of a lifetime. “Ever tried, ever failed,” Samuel Beckett once wrote. “No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” It requires what the great editor Ted Solotoroff once called endurability.
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-Dani Shapiro, Still Writing
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After reading this, I was like…Oh yah! This is what it means to be a writer. Fine. BRING IT ON! I can take whatever comes my way.
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So, to the writers who are querying/on an R&R/on submission, we can never be certain of what awaits us around the corner in our writing life, but we CAN be certain that if we do get rejected (heaven forbid), we’ll probably wallow in self-pity for a few days, but then we’ll get back up and begin again. Why? Because we’re writers. We are ones who endure.
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Writing Tip: Your Plot in Three Acts

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During my work break at the library, I was skimming through the Entertainment Weekly magazine. In one of the articles, the author Miriam Toews made an interesting statement about how she constructs her novel:

You must first establish tenderness, [Mariam Toews] says. Then the excitement will build, as you put “the violence and agony of life into every note” until you must make an important decision: either return to tenderness or “continue on with the truth, the violence, the pain, the tragedy, to the very end.”

I love books that follow this construct. I try to follow this arc myself when I write.

Without this three-act structure, I lose interest in a story fast. And by the three-act structure, I mean, the beginning introduces the conflict, the middle is when crap hits the fan, and the ending is how that conflict is resolved. According to the filmmaker Edoardo Nolfo:

The three- act structure is intrinsic to the human brain’s model of the world; it matches a blueprint that is hard-wired in the human brain, which is constantly attempting to rationalize the world and resolve it into patterns. It is therefore an inevitable property of almost any successful drama, whether the writer is aware of it or not.

During my work break, I ALSO discovered the literary agent Paula Munier’s book PLOT PERFECT, where she gave a breakdown of the conventional beginning, middle and end:

Love Story

Beginning: Boy meets girl.
Middle: Boy loses girl.
End: Boy gets girl back.

Murder Mystery

Beginning: Someone gets murdered
Middle: The cops, detective, or amateur sleuth investigates the murder
End: The murderer is brought to justice

Coming-Of-Age-Story

Beginning: A young person longs for adventure — and new acquaintances and events conspire to make that happen
Middle: With the help of the new friends and mentor, the young person undergoes a series of transformative experiences.
End: Armed with this newfound knowledge and experience, the young person triumphs against overwhelming odds — and comes of age

War Story

Beginning: Our hero (or heroes) learns of the mission.
Middle: Our hero (or heroes) plan out, train for, and undertake the mission
End: Our hero (or heroes) must go above and beyond to overcome the enemy — and the mission is won

Each model shows that by the middle of a book, the Main Character should be tackling some kind of conflict. This conflict should threaten what the MC wants most in life.

 

What does the character in your book want most in life?

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My Writing Music:

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One Lovely Blog Award: 7 Curious Facts About Me

one-lovely-blog-awardFellow writer and critique partner Christa Wojo has tagged me for the One Lovely Blog Award (to participate in a blog tour where we share 7 curious facts about our life). Be sure to check out her lovely answers!

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Here are the rules.

Rules:

  1. Share 7 Lovely Facts about myself
  2. Link to 15 blogs (or as many as possible) that I enjoy reading….I just shared the 10 blogs I often visit or wish would be updated more often! haha.
  3. Nominate the authors of those 15 blogs to participate and do the same, linking back to the original Lovely blog. (That would be this page)

Without further ado, here are some interesting facts about me!

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1. I thought my dad was the prime minister.

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My dad is a theology prof, but before he pursued his PhD, he was a pastor. Once, in kindergarten, I was conversing with my friend’s mom, and somehow we talked about jobs, then this happened:

Her: So what does your father do, sweetie?
Me: He’s the prime minister.
Her: You mean minister?
Me: Nope. The prime minister.

For many years, I continued to believe I was right, and that she was a silly woman.

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2. I enjoy watching Korean Dramas.

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A few years ago, I watched Boys Before Flowers (25 episodes, each episode being one hour long) in two days. I slept no more than two to three hours each day so that I could wake-up and immediately watch some more. Towards the 20th episode, I was so dazed with exhaustion I had no idea what I was watching, but I kept watching anyway. Talk about addicting!

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3. I LOVE watching action shows.

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After watching an episode of 24, I once stared at my apartment door, then solemnly asked my sister, “Do you think our door can be shot down?” She looked genuinely troubled by my question.

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4. When I was a kid, I wanted to be Peter Pan so, so badly.

I was, of course, old enough to know that flying was impossible and that Neverland didn’t exist.

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But still, I longed to be Peter Pan with such intensity. During family strolls through the forest, I’d find myself a stick (my sword) and jump off tree stumps and rocks (in my mind, I was flying and fighting off pirates). My mom swears that she once found me sobbing uncontrollably at home, and when she’d asked why I was crying, I had supposedly answered, “Because I’ll never be Peter Pan!!!!!!”

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5. The first time I learned how to swim (the doggy paddle) was when I nearly drowned.

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We were at a water park and I somehow wandered away from my parents to try out a waterslide. The slide plunged me into the deep end and I remember being in a state of panic – because I was a little kid who had never been taught to swim before. I started flapping my arms and legs, and managed to reach the surface. Fortunately a life-guard was nearby and immediately hauled me out.

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6. The books I reach out for most often these days are are non-fiction.

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After graduating university, I’ve come to enjoy reading non-fiction more than fiction. Yet I love writing fiction more than ever.

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7. One film changed my life.

I was the kid in school who hated English and thought chapter-books a great bore. Becoming an author was the last thing on my mind. Then I watched this film – and my life was changed forever (though now this film cracks me up!).

After watching Pride and Prejudice (1940), I hunted down the 1995 adaptation. This version left me SOOOOO obsessed with P&P. I read the book, then wanted to read more, so I tracked down every sequel I could find. When I ran out of sequels to read, I wrote my own continuation (where Darcy & Elizabeth were spies for Napoleon….yah, I know. I was 13). And that’s how I began pursuing writing at the age of 13.

 

I tried to share some non-writing facts about me – but I couldn’t help add a few in! Now I will pass the award to the awesome writers and friends of blogs that I follow ( If I’ve missed any blogs, please let me know! And if you’ve already done this blog hop or don’t have the time, please feel free to decline.)

 

Congratulations to:

Rowenna

I write young adult fiction and am represented by Jessica Sinsheimer of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency. When not typing or attacking pages with a purple pen, I enjoy sewing, baking pies, and trespassing.

Julie Dao

MG/YA writer, runner, dessert enthusiast, and hairy-footed hobbit at heart.

Jude Knight

I am a writer of historical romance novels, the first few of which are set in late Georgian England.

Rika Ashton

Book reviewer & blogger. Aspiring author of Fantasy fiction. An English Lit. & Education graduate via UBC. Addicted to coffee & words!

Ms. Reiter

I am a thirty-something, mother-of-two aspiring author. My current work in progress, The Long Shadow, is a historical novel dealing with the troubled relationship between British prime minister William Pitt the Younger and his elder brother John, 2nd Earl of Chatham. This blog mixes historical musings, novel brainstorming and thoughts on the difficulties of writing a novel with small children tugging at one’s trouser-legs. It is also turning into a one-woman attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of the man known as the “Late” Lord Chatham. He doesn’t always help out.

Sybil Lam

I recently left my day job (August 2014) to pursue fiction writing and other projects. My current project is ASHA, a fantasy story that explores the topic of skin, including eczema and psoriasis. It combines the adventure of L. Frank Baum’s WIZARD OF OZ with the imagery of Guillermo Del Toro’s film PAN’S LABYRINTH. I hope to query Book 1 (of 2) early 2015.

Tom

Tom used to write books for business, covering everything from the gambling industry to new developments in printing technology. Now he writes about love and adventure in the 19th century, which is not nearly as well paid, but much more fun. It also allows him to pretend that travelling in the Far East and South America is research. Tom lives in London. His main interest is avoiding doing any honest work and this leaves him with time to ski, skate and dance tango, all of which he does quite well.

Philippa Jane Keyworth

Author of Regency Romances. I love writing, reading, horses, dogs and movies! My debut novel, The Widow’s Redeemer, is out now!

Linotte Melodieuse

Writer, nail polish addict, tea-a-holic, rabid history lover, voracious reader. Don’t worry, I won’t quit my day job.

Judith Arnopp

I am a novelist. My books concentrate on history from a female perspective. what was it like to be constrained within a corset, refused a proper education, passed from the jurisdiction of father to that of husband, denied legal and moral rights that we now take for granted?

 

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Writing Process Blog Hop

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I haven’t blogged about my writing for ages. But that’s because I’ve been busy writing my novel. Now that my manuscript is in the hands of The Beta Readers, I have no manuscript to keep me busy. I don’t know what to do with my spare time (confession: I don’t know how to relax). So I was excited when fellow writer and critique partner Christa Wojo tagged me for this Blog Hop!

Check out Christa’s answers. And here are mine:

 

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on Night Flower, a historical-women’s fiction chronicling the adventures of Amanda Hollingworth, a spirited young prostitute who escapes the brothel and tries to make amends with her troubled past. In the wind-swept county of Dartmoor, she falls in love with horticulture and finds friendship with the magistrate. All the while, the Metropolitan Police are tracking her down like bloodhounds. It’s a story that explores the themes of justice and mercy, grief and hope, and the resilience of the human spirit.

 

How does your work differ from others in the genre?

The fact that my heroine is a prostitute makes Night Flower different from most (though not all) books in my genre. My work also focuses on the Contagious Disease Act of 1866, a legislation that hasn’t been much explored in works of fiction…Correct me if I’m wrong.

 

Why do you write?

I have a compulsive need to capture what I find beautiful in life, and writing allows me to capture a scenery, a moment in time, or a certain emotion I don’t want to let go of.

I love creating my own characters and weaving their lives into a complicated web.

I love writing because it’s magical. Example: I’ll begin a story, thinking I have full control, only to have the characters overthrow my power as ‘The Author.’ The feeling is akin to what a kid might feel when seeing the dolls inside a doll-house come to life.

Mostly, I love writing because I can give to readers. I can give them a story – a story that’ll hopefully tug at a few heartstrings.

 

How does your writing process work?

Stage 1: I do some light research – groundwork to build my story on. Then I write a chapter-by-chapter outline, which I never end up following, but I like having a map of sorts. Inspired by this map, I write my first draft within a few weeks. About a quarter of the novel will consist of point form notes.

Stage 2: I reread the first draft, further develop the story, and turn point form notes into prose. This is the stage I do most of my research. I’ll spend weeks reading primary and secondary sources. My research ends up inspiring new dialogues and scenes. Sometimes what I discover through research redirects the entire plot of the story, and I follow wherever it takes me.

Stage 3: I print out the manuscript and try to read it within a week – with a red pen. I keep an eye open for character/plot consistency and emotional fluidity. I end up rewriting chunks of scenes and dialogues. All these changes I incorporate into the Master Document on my laptop.

Stage 4: I send out my manuscript to The Beta Readers and spend the next few weeks twiddling my thumb, researching some more, and binging on period dramas.

Stage 5: I receive feedback and am overwhelmed for a day or two. But I manage to take things step by step/chapter by chapter. Slowly but surely I manage to incorporate their critiques, which results in a manuscript that leaves me deeply satisfied.

 

Thanks for reading! I’m tagging the following talented writers:

Rika Ashton

Maybelle Leung

Philippa Jane Keyworth

Priscilla Shay

Stephanie A. Allen

 

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