"Welcome to Japan, folks. The local time is . . . tomorrow."
- from 30 Minutes Over Tokyo, The Simpsons, Season 10

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Sky is so Blue

Cross-posted from the Den of Shadows.

When I was in 6th grade, my English teacher kept pretty much all of my writing (same for everyone else in my class), then gave it back to me when I was a senior. The first piece of writing in the folder was a poem called, "The Sky is so Blue." Even after reading it a few times, I still couldn't believe that I wrote it. So I told my friend (who had been in the same English class as me in 6th grade) that my teacher made a mistake and gave me someone else's poem. My friend read it and said, "Oh no, I remember you writing this poem." And I have absolutely no memory of doing so. The weirdest thing is that the poem is really good. I mean, I can even read it now (almost fourteen years later), and go, "Wow, how did I ever manage to write anything like that?" It just makes me kind of sad that I don't actually remember writing it.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Here's me when I got home from work today.

103253 / 120000 words. 86% done!

So the 120,000 words is just an estimated word count. But I have just finished chapter 31, and now I only have the epilogue left to write. I highly doubt the epilogue will be 17,000 words long. Or even 7,000. And then there's the revisions.

Here's me about three hours later.

104426 / 104426 words. 100% done!


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Talking About Plot

This is mostly cross-posted from The Otherworld message board. I started this post over a day ago, and now that I'm finally returning to it, I don't remember exactly what I was going to say. Ah, such is life and getting distracted by fun things (like visiting Japanese temples) and work things (like needing to write English tests).

I almost always talk to my husband about what I'm writing. Whether I'm at the beginning stages of planning something and need some example plot placement holders to give me an idea of how to get to the next major plot point. Or if I just need to rethink the direction the story's going in. I'll also usually talk to him a lot while I'm actually writing the story. Like if I've worked my way into a corner and can't find a way out of it, I'll try to explain what's going on with the plot and if any relevant things have changed since I last talked to him. Sometimes he helps me figure out what's going to happen next. But most of the time, just talking to him puts what I'm working on in a different perspective, and that's usually enough to get my own brain to start thinking again.

Though sometimes I won't talk to my husband about something I'm working on. At least not write away. Like on Friday, I wrote a scenes where I had intended two characters to work together, only they were fighting themselves when they were supposed to be fighting someone else. I didn't tell my husband about this right away because 1. I'm not sure if I'm going to keep this interaction in the next draft or not and 2. I wasn't sure what my husband would think of it. So usually for things like that (things that I'm not so sure about), I usually wait until my husband's reading the story for him to find out what I wrote. As it was, I don't to a problem in my writing on Saturday and ended up explaining that "change" to my story so I could get him to help me with my latest problem.

Anyway, on Friday, I broke 100,000 words. And on Saturday, I finished Chapter 30. Which means I only have Chapter 31 and the Epilogue left to write. So I'm pretty excited about that, and I hope to finish this draft before my birthday on Sunday (June 29). Of course I probably won't make the 120,000 words, but that's okay. Right now, I just want to have it finished. Finally. So I can start the revisions.

The Otherworld discussion also brought up these two questions, which I'm more or less paraphrasing.

1. What are the benefits of discussing your plot?

I guess I like discussing my plots because a. it lets me know that at least one other person (usually more) thinks my idea is as interesting as I do and b. my husband is pretty good at reigning in some of my more far-fetched ideas. Especially the ones that really have nothing to do with the story and entertaining the ideas is only a way to procrastinate from the actual writing.

2. Does discussing your plot improve your writing?

I don't know if it necessarily improves my writing, but helps improve my logic and reasoning, and it definitely helps strengthen the ideas behind the plot.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

How Teaching ESL has Affected my Writing

Since teaching English as a second language both in South Korea and now in Japan, I can safely say that it has affected my writing, and perhaps my speaking ability.

First, I'll start with the good stuff. When I have students ask "Why?" about parts of English grammar and things that are so natural to me as a native speaker and writer of English, I have to stop and actually think about why something works that way. If I were speaking to another native speaker, I'd give some excuse like, "It just sounds better that way."

But that doesn't work in Korea or Japan. For one, neither Korean nor Japanese has plurals. So when a Japanese student says, "I like cat," I'm pretty sure they mean, "I like cats." But if a Korean student made the same mistake, I wouldn't be as sure about their true meaning. That's mostly because saying "I like cat" is like saying "I like to eat cats," which is a perfectly acceptable food in Korea.

Now for the bad stuff. Since coming here to teach English, I'll make sentences like, "I started working on this story longer ago than I started working on Kitsu's story," and I'll stare at the sentence thinking that something's wrong with the phrase "longer ago," but I have no idea if that's a viable English sentence or not. Though I'd like to keep the "when in doubt" thought going, and hopefully assume I'll be smart enough to get rid of this questionable phrases in my writing. (Unless of course I'm writing a first person story about a girl who's teaching ESL abroad and want to keep her messed up English "authentic," but I don't see that happening anything soon.)

I'll also look at a work that my subconscious knows is spelled correctly, but for the life of me, I think it's misspelled somehow. Which can be a pain when writing everything out on paper where I don't have a spellchecker to tell me if I spelled the word wrong or not. But, this one's really only a minor thing since I'm pretty bad at spelling to begin with.

And the last one is that I never thought about English as being "fresh" or I suppose "stale" until I came to Japan. I had one of the other teachers at my school who's been in Japan longer than I have ask me for help with one of the "Why?" questions of English grammar because my English was "fresher" than his. (Actually, the "fresher" is mine. He said, "Hey, your English's fresh.")

Friday, June 13, 2008

Nearing the End

This is mostly cross-posted from the Den of Shadows.

I'm on one of the last chapters in my book, and have been for over a week now. Mostly, it was because I didn't know how to write this one fight scene, so I spent some time working the ecology of Kitsu's homeworld. I have some pretty interesting stuff, but it still needs work.

Earlier this week, I wrote part of the fight scene. I basically asked myself, what's the worse that could happen to her right now? And unfortunately, what came up might not work so well for a future romantic relationship, because it might cause some people to go "And she's supposed to be madly in love with him after that? Eww." But I figure as long as it gets me to write now, it doesn't really matter what I write, I can always change it during the rewrites.

Friday afternoon, I finally got around to writing the next step in the fight scene. This will probable also need a lot of work, since I don't think I've built up to this any. When I was trying to figure out how to do the fight scene, I just asked, "What would be a really cool way for her to win?" Though thinking about it now, I wonder if it would be better to ask, "What would happen if she lost?" or "Would anything cool happen if she lost?" Actually, come to think of it, I think she does need to lose.

Even though there are only about two chapters and an epilogue to the story, I still have to write about five more chapters because of the epilogue. Basically the last two chapters I have to write will be chapters 1 and 2 for book 2, so I can have the epilogue line up properly.

Really, I should be taking my own advice from an earlier post about not thinking too much and just letting it all click. Then I'd probably be wasting less time doing "research" that I *think* will help me write, and spend more time doing the actual writing. Especially since I would really like to get it finished soon so I can move on to editing it.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Yukata Fun

For our fifth wedding anniversary, my husband bought me a yukata (or a summer kimono). While he was at the store, he made sure he had everything, including the yukata, the obi (belt), the geta (wooden sandals), and a purse. Only when we searched on the internet for how to put a yukata on, we found out that we were missing the sashes to tie the yukata in place, as well as a slip/petticoat type thing to go under the yukata.

Luckily, one of my husband's students is a beautician and often helps women put on their yukata and kimono. Actually, I've heard that many women don't know how to put one on properly so they usually have someone help them.

We met with my husband's student Saturday night. She had a petticoat I could wear, as well as the sashes to hold the yukata in place. As she put the yukata on me, my husband videotaped it, so if we ever have difficulties, or we're back home in the US, he'll be able to watch it and figure out what he's doing. She taught him how to tie the easiest bow, or the Butterfly, which he said was a lot like tying a bowtie (if only he actually knew how to tie one). Lastly, she stuck a cardboard piece in front, inside the obi to make it look a lot smoother. Also, since it was my first time wearing geta, she advised me to wear the tabi (socks that are divided between the big toe and all the small toes) my husband picked up so I wouldn't get a blister between my toes, even though they never wear socks with yukata.

I was just about ready to ask my husband's student where I could buy the sashes and whatnot, when she said she was giving us everything but the petticoat. So hopefully when my husband and I go out shopping on Sunday, we'll be able to find one for me.

Also, this last week I found out that both his parents and my mom will be coming to Japan for a week in August. So I'm looking forward to their visit, especially since it means they'll be bringing Vivi with them. But I figured at least one of our moms will want to buy a yukata (since they're a lot cheaper than kimono), and now we know all the stuff you really need to have everything, including a video of how to put it on.

We were also lucky because this weekend there is a firefly festival going on in Yamaguchi. We went to a fireworks festival in Ajisu on our anniversary (May 17th), but I was somewhat disappointed I didn't get to wear my yukata. But after getting my yukata put on, we went to the firefly festival. We might go back tonight so I can play the "fish game" where you use a flimsy or quickly dissolving scoop to try to catch a fish or two. Most people can't actually do it. Though I have a student who caught a bunch of fish playing this game. But my husband told me if I caught a fish playing that game, he would buy me an aquarium to keep them in (pretty handy for keeping fish, neh?)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Inspiration, Take 2

I actually get most of my inspiration from movies, but in a way, it's not really inspiration for a completely new story. It's more like somewhere in my brain, I think, hey, I should turn that into a story. But I don't do anything with that idea until I see a movie that's similar to my idea, and I think, that would be a really fun story to work on.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End -- This made me want to write a pirate story, but rather than returning to the pirate story I had started a couple years before, I started a new one (but that was partly because I was living in South Korea and my notes were in Minnesota). I guess you could say the inspiration for the plot came when I asked one of the other English teachers what came to mind when they thought of Eastern dragons, which I think they said "fate."

Vampire movies -- Whether they're good or really, really bad, watching vampire movies always makes me want to work on Standard Issue. I don't even know how the idea got started, just that my husband was like, why is it that in every vampire movie all the vampires have to have the same "standard issue" clothing (of you know, black and leather and tight).

B-Rate horror movies -- I was creating a character for a role-playing game set in the modern day that was supposed to be vaguely horror-ish (the game, not the character), when I needed something for her and her "sidekick" to do while the guys tried to show off, thinking they knew how to destroy the big bad monster. So my character and her sidekick watched b-rate horror movies, which seemed appropriate considering that the adventure seemed like it was taken straight from a B-horror movie anyway. Add a few writing exercises for one of my creative writing classes at college, giving the character a degree in zoology, and well . . . I'm still waiting to write Mission #1: Tank Riding Zombies, but my husband wants to start a webcomic with her and the character he created in our creative writing class.

Okay, so those last weren't exactly the initial inspiration for the story, but close enough.

I also get inspiration from dreams, music, and drawings.

Dreams -- I haven't really dealt much with the stories I want to write based off some of my dreams, but their basic ideas are in the background for the main world that my stories take place in. I call them the Psychic series, but mostly they're biopunk. Though I wrote one short story in that series while I was in Korea, but that inspiration came from the high security system for the place I worked at and how seemingly easy it was to get around it. (Of course, I wish I had that short story in Japan with me rather than in MN since I would really like to edit it and submit it.)

Music and Drawings -- Pai's story is actually inspired from both. Pai is a character I drew during 11th or 12th grade, though she didn't become a character until sometime after I was in college. Sometime later I was listening to "Nothing Else Matters" by Metallica and I thought it would be fun to write a story based on the lyrics to that song. Well, since most things don't turn out how you think they will, especially when it comes to plotting, I've decided that the song that much better describes her first book is "No Leaf Clover" by Metallica. But if I'm lucky, book 4 will finally give me the "Nothing Else Matters" type of story.

There are many other places I can get inspiration from, and each of my stories probably has their own inspiration story, but that'll be saved for a later time.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

When Everything Clicks: Or What Happens When I Stop Thinking Too Much

This is sort of cross-posted from the Den of Shadows.

One of my favorite things about writing is when everything just clicks together. The first version of Kitsune was a jumbled mess called Butterfly Kiss that became even more of a mess when I tried revising it. So last August, I dumped the original plotline for something completely different, one that featured a new character as the villain. With such a simple change (having a different villain), the whole story just seemed to come together. I was amazed at how easy it was to plot out the main events. Of course the writing is a bit trickier, but that's always the more difficult part of the creative process for me.

Only I was having a new problem. I had always wanted to write Butterfly Kiss as the first book in a trilogy, with the second book called Butterfly Shadow and the third book Butterfly Essence/Soul. Unfortunately, I also thought of calling it the Fox Chronicles, and I figured something labeled "Chronicles" should be more than three books long, and maybe closer to being five books. But with everything I had shoved into Butterfly Kiss, I didn't think I would get much more than those three books. But, when I changed the central focus of book one (now called Kitsune), created a new villain and thus a different aspect of my world, I opened the Fox Chronicles up to the potential for a very long series.

Of course the problem I was having in May was how was I going to recombine what I had initially written with Kitsune to make a cohesive overall plot for the series.

When I was in tae kwon do, the black belts and red belts who tried helping me always told me, "You think too much. Just stop thinking, and it'll come to you," or something like that. It didn't matter who was giving the advice, but it was always along those lines. And, you know, the few times I was able to actually "stop thinking," I was really good. I didn't make any really dumb mistakes and I could ignore the other people in the room while I was testing. The same thing applied when I practiced board breaking. Every time I thought about kicking the board, my foot just stopped right at the board, because I was too afraid of hurting myself. When I finally stopped thinking about breaking the board, and just did it, it didn't even hurt.

Anyway, about a week ago, I just started writing a basic outline for the series. It was something simple like a few notes on what the book is about, who the villain is, who the love interest is, and Kitsu's main character arc or the main theme/controlling idea of the book. At first, I didn't think I'd have much of a plot for any of the other books, but it was quite easy for me to come up with a basic plot for the next three books in the series. I was kind of amazed at how easy everything just seemed to fit together. Plus, this quick outline for the Fox Chronicles, books 1 to 4 covers Kitsune, Butterfly Kiss (now divided into books 2 and 3), and a new idea I came up with after introducing Kadin and the Foxes in book 1 instead of in book "yes" (meaning, I needed to introduce the Foxes, I just had no idea when that was going to happen). Plus, these first four books lay the groundwork for the politics that I want to deal with throughout the series.

As for the events of Butterfly Shadow and Butterfly Soul/Essence. Well, Shadow can be worked in pretty much anywhere after book 4. While the events of Butterfly Soul/Essence will get divided up much like Butterfly Kiss. Since the probable events from Soul/Essence dealt with a lot of the backstory for the galaxy in general, sort of like the "real history" of how the galaxy (politically speaking) came to be. Likewise, Soul/Essence dealt with the far future of the galaxy. All in all, I think the story will be better by having it split up. But the events in the far future will still be the last events dealt with in the Fox Chronicles.

Now I just need to get back to writing so I can finish Kitsune and find a home for it.