Year of the Panda: The Soundtrack & Plot Points

There are two people whom I trust when speaking about the art of putting together the perfect mix tape. One, is Rob Gordon (shown above), and while I know he is a fictional character, he speaks the absolute truth about mix tapes. The other person whom I trust is Lin-Manuel Miranda, who has proven to me that I was doing it right all along, yet never did it enough for those whom I truly loved.

So I find myself going through my music, searching for the proper soundtrack, when a thought occurs to me. Lightning strikes my brain in the least painful way. “Panda,” I said to myself. “This character that you’ve been writing, that you’ve been creating, that you’ve been focusing on… he’s EXACTLY your age!” And then I laughed for a good twenty minutes because I realized that I knew exactly what he was listening to growing up, and exactly what he was listening to at that very moment.

A huge part of the plot came to me the last time I was home. I wasn’t there for long, but as per the usual there are always a number of boxes filled with my crap in the basement of my parents’ house — where, I might add, I spent my formative years — for me to rummage through. And so I did just that. And in one of these boxes I found a number of notes, folded in all sorts of strange ways, all written either to me or by me and my boyfriend collectively, back and forth, stuffed in my locker… well. Regardless of what may have been in those sap-covered creations, I thought perhaps that maybe, just maybe, both generations of characters in my story share their love story through, well, love letters.

Now all I need to do is remember how to write a love letter.

Writing is easy, titles? Not so much.

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This is what I told myself a week ago. I told myself that I would have something published by the end of the year. And, sure, it’s only January, but I’m feeling extremely confident about this one. Actually, when you get right down to it, I’ve been having a blast with this project. And, for once in a very long time, I’ve actually been thinking about it before writing it all out. Oh, sure. I have some scenes already written down, and I have a notebook where I’ve been keeping the writing thus far (save for a scene which I’d typed up while sitting waiting for my flight to leave from the Delta terminal at Detroit Wayne County Metropolitan Airport), and in the back of said notebook I have notes for a timeline, bits of story here or there, ready to be added into the notebook when the time comes.

All in all, I’ve been treating this one almost with kid gloves. Yes, I want to simply jump off the diving board head-first into the warm, choppy waters, but I feel like… I can’t. Not just yet.

Because while this project has a timeline and a structure and a plot and characters, it doesn’t have a title. I mean, it doesn’t even have a working title. I’ve just been calling it “My Own Joy Luck Club” because right now that’s how it feels like it’s going to end up. It’s a story that spans at least two generations of falling in love and finding yourself. A multi-cultural love story, if you will. But it doesn’t have a name just yet.

And I feel like I won’t be able to properly move forward with the narrative until it does. I feel like it’s something that is severely lacking here. And yet, every time I sit down and try to figure out a title, nothing seems to work. I’m not caught up on it just yet, but I fear that it might become a problem in the later rounds. But for now, I continue to plot, and continue to construct, and continue to put the story together scene by scene.

The Writing Year: Learning to Structure

I have always had a problem with structuring a story.

I consider myself to be a pantser on most days, someone who has the mere hint of a story hiding in their brain, and when I sit down to start writing I just go at it. I have the idea of characters, of who they are and what they look like, of where they live and what they’re doing on their daily routine to lead them to the point in their timeline where we meet up with them, but after that I just let the character dictate where the story is going.

This, I’ve come to gather, is the reason why I haven’t really finished anything in my lifetime. I have no idea how any story is supposed to end.

During this year’s NaNoWriMo I won a number of books during the NaNoWriMotown’s Midway Madness raffle, including one on plot and structure. Two words that, until recently, have never really been involved in my storytelling. I’ve just been one to sit at the keys or with a pad and pencil/pen in front of me and just write. And, most of the time, I’ve had a lot of fun with what I’ve written… but I’ve never been able to fully finish a story, to fully complete the arc and make it, well, a complete story.

So I’ve been reading through the book on plot and structure. So far I’ve learned a few things about structure, a few things that I’ve been leaving out and therefore have felt as though my stories have been lacking. So, on this next journey into fiction, I am going to give it my all and attempt to structure the story properly. I’m really just hoping that this turns into something fun and useful and not another profile in failure. I’m getting to the point where my profiles in failure are no longer fun, but rather disappointing and just plain ol’ sad.

The Writing Year: A New Day

Planning your novel ahead of time increases its likelihood of being dead on arrival.” from the NY Book Editors Planning to Outline Your Novel? Don’t.

I’ve always kind of adopted this mentality. Whenever I sit down and try to plot and plan out a novel, it never ends well for me. Sure, I have a series of points all lined up and ready to go, but when I set out to actually outline a story? I always feel like I’m trying to hit checkpoints, like if I don’t pass certain points along the way the story that I’m setting out to write is just going to fall flat. But I also feel like if I don’t have those particular checkpoints the story won’t go anywhere, and it’ll get there in a big damn hurry.

When you head into a piece of writing without the planning, the job of the writer is to create.” And this is where I am right now. I’m sitting here, not worrying about a word count or even a page count. I have an idea that I would love to get down on paper, an opening scene for the newly revamped Tequila Mockingbird. I’m sitting at a table, headphones on and playing some playlist that I’ve been setting up over the past few weeks — playlists for me are always a work in progress, okay? — and I think I’ve gotten… a paragraph of this new scene on paper.

This is where adopting a new mentality is going to be difficult for me. I’ve always had it in my head that I have to write a specific number of words, or a specific number of pages. But writing without a set goal in mind? I’m not sure if I can accomplish this the way that I would like.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t try.

The Writing Year: Day 72

screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-11-42-46-pmThis was tweeted by yours truly nearly six months ago. This was at a point where I’d been working 20+ hours a week, taking 18 credits, and spending 10 hours at an internship which I loved more than life itself. This was a time in my life where busy wasn’t a strong enough word. I wasn’t busy, I was swamped. The moments I wasn’t doing homework, or working, or trying to sleep, were spent either writing or “playing” with Koala.

I have since graduated, and the internship is long over. And while I have gotten a few extra hours at work, my time has been considerably freer than it had been six months ago. So… why have I not focused on my writing? Well, I suppose it could be a number of things that have me not writing as much as I would like. I mean, I can think of a few reasons why I haven’t gotten it together, haven’t gotten the ball rolling at the speed which I think it should be rolling, but none of them are related to the writing itself.

What I really need to do is just… sit somewhere, not thinking about the world for a while, and just write. Forget the computer (or at the very least turn off the wireless), and just sit there with my notebook and pen and what have you.

The only problem with this is that I enjoy doing research as I go along. If I have an idea for a setting, I like to find the perfect setting and then describe it using what I’ve already seen. So, I would need some kind of Internet connection for this. But the truth of the matter is, if I went to a public library I could always take notes and then use one of their computers to conduct said research. Remember when libraries used to have books that you could use for shit like this? Well, some of them still do, but they’re few and far between.

Oooo. You know, come to think of it, I may plan a little excursion to the dirty* side of town. I really like that space, and who knows. Maybe it’ll be conducive to the process once again. Plus, Somerset has some really nice stores, and I haven’t been to any mall in a minute. Hmm. Perhaps I have an agenda for tomorrow after all!

*I say dirty, but really it’s the part of town where my former roommate lives and works, and frankly I don’t really want to risk running into her again, ever.

The Writing Year: Day 67

Ahoy ahoy!

I wrote something like 1,063 words today, and you know what? THEY WERE ALL ROLE-PLAYING WORDS.

Now, I think I know what you’re thinking. Those don’t count. Those shouldn’t count. Assuming another identity and pretending to play through a scene as that identity? Preposterous.

What the fuck do you think fiction is?

The Writing Year: Day 61

Urban Dictionary defines writer’s block as “a usually temporary psychological inability to begin or continue work on a piece of writing“. When I saw this I thought it was… entirely too grown up to be from Urban Dictionary, but accepted it because, well, I’m knee-deep in a pretty severe block right now myself. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been making valiant attempts at writing something, yet it seems like everything I write is genuinely terrible.

I don’t scrap what I think is terrible. Well, okay no. No that’s not accurate. I wish that was accurate, I wish that I didn’t have a pile of papers sitting on my desk right now that was nothing more than pages ripped out of a notebook, with the frayed edges of the college ruled pages falling off and becoming all but impossible to clean up.

This is the problem with my writing most of the time. I have amazing ideas, ideas which I love and love executing if only for my own benefit. But when the idea doesn’t come to fruition the way I hoped, I rip it out of the notebook and debate using the pages as kindling in the fire pit in the backyard.

Yet here it is. September 30th, one day before the first of October, the month of preparation before NaNoWriMo. And this one is weird for me because, well, I don’t really need any preparation. I’ve been preparing for this for several months already. I’ve been putting notes into the Scrivener document for months.

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See? It’s all written down, ready to go. At least the first dozen or so chapters, anyway. So this October, I’m not going to be doing much in the way of plotting, or pretending to plot. I’ve got most of it already done. So… what am I going to do this October? The month is usually spent doing all of this plotting nonsense, and now? *SCOFF* Now I’m already ready to go.

Well, except for the fact that I’m knee-deep in some kind of writer’s block.

I’ve been listening to audiobooks while at the gym — just finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, now onto Armada, also by Ernest Cline, both read by Wil Wheaton — and have been reading every chance I get. I’ve been told that reading is what helps your writing, so this is what I’ve been doing. I’ve been listening to and reading whatever I can get my hands on grabs my attention. The Ernest Cline novels grabbed my attention long before a good friend told me they were worth my time, and so far they are both proving to be worth my time. Especially Ready Player One.

I should be writing instead of blogging.