The Writer Tag

The Writer Tag

It is obviously way past Writing Week, but I was busy in those weeks, so I wasn’t able to answer this. But now I am not too busy (still am, but not too much), I figured I can make time for this. I was tagged by Isa, and this Writer Tag is created by Bea of The Dalaga Project.  And I will stop it with further blabbering and get on to the questions:

1. What type of writing do you do?

Fiction (here, and hopefully somewhere else, like a book), non-fiction. By non-fiction, it’s mostly blog posts (here, in this blog), book reviews (here), book lists (here, and here). I used to write reflections for Didache, from 2006-2010, too.

2. What genres and/or topics do you write about?

For the non-fiction stuff that isn’t about books, it’s mostly drama. I kid…or maybe not. Perhaps it’s just drama from my POV. But I try to write what I know, and the things I learn as I navigate through life. Last year, I wrote a lot about stillness and courage, this year it seems like a lot of it is forgiveness and joy. And God, but that’s because there’s so much to write about Him. :)

As for fiction, I write contemporary romance/chick lit, because it’s so fun to write. I want to write a YA novel some time, and then maybe finally tackle that fantasy novel I always wanted to write.

3. How long have you been writing?

I wrote my first story about the weather in Grade 3, the same year I said I wanted to be like Elizabeth Wakefield the writer. The first story with actual people was in Grade 4, I think, entitled The Two Slumber Parties – a mash-up of Sweet Valley and Sailormoon. :P So counting my age now, I’ve been writing for 18 years. On/off, of course, because there were years when I didn’t write any piece of fiction or even a journal entry, save for some whiny blog posts.

4. Are you published?

I was published in Didache for several years, after a friend gave me the writing gig. I was also published in one magazine that a friend produced, and then also later in another magazine for Filipino speculative fiction. And again, I have book lists online. As for fiction, I haven’t had the guts to send them out to publishers (or editors, even)…until lately. I’m still working on self-publishing my first book, so…let’s all watch out for that. :D

5. What was the first story you ever wrote?

That story about the weather, where Sunny, Rainy, Cloudy, and Stormy were fighting over their place in the sky. I wrote it one day while we were in the province and I had a nice notebook to fill. I can’t remember how it ends now. :))

6. Why do you write?

First, a story. When I was fresh out of college, I was that typical, lost graduate who had no idea what she wants to do with her life. During a worship during a YFC event, we were singing Hillsong’s To The Ends of the Earth, and this line jumped at me:

…and I would give the world to tell Your story, because I know that You’ve called me.

I wish I could say that that moment got me into the road of being a full-time writer, but it didn’t. But that definitely kept me writing, because I want to tell His story.

That, and I love words. :)

7. How do you find time to write?

It’s not about finding time but really making time. For the novels, I really make time for it. I have no set schedule, but I set aside some weekends and pockets of time to work on my projects. I am learning that sometimes, even when I don’t feel writing, I just have to write. The personal blog is a bit trickier, because I don’t just write what comes to mind unlike before, but I try to get something out every week.

It helps to keep the phone away. ;)

8. When and where are the best times to write?

This is so cliche (not to mention expensive), but I love writing in coffee shops. It fuels my dream of being a full-time writer who churns words out while watching people. Other than that, I like being in my room because I have a semi-new desk, plus there’s no TV there and TV is a huge distraction. Time – for blog posts, usually before I head to work. Articles – mornings, but that usually extend up to the end of the day. Fiction – I write more stuff in the afternoon.

9. Favorite food/drinks while writing?

Coffee. I also indulge in some alcohol for certain nights, like that time I had a bottle of Gilbey’s Premium Strength while I was finishing my first draft, and Jack-Coke while pounding away on my first round of revisions. Food – peanuts. Or anything that’s easy to reach and eat without me thinking too much about it. I learned this during NaNoWriMo: when you’re rushing to reach a word-count deadline, you don’t need distracting food. :P

10. Your writing playlist?

Any music that isn’t new. I read somewhere that when you have new music, you tend to focus on that music more than anything else, because it’s not familiar. I usually make playlists for the novels I write, so sometimes to get into the writing mood, I put that on repeat.

11. What do family/friends/loved ones think of you writing?

My parents are supportive, I am sure of that. I haven’t let them read any of my fiction, though, because…haha, I don’t know, I’m shy? :P My friends are supportive, too, mostly because I have always been “The Writer” and they know that my book has been long overdue. My book club friends, especially, but I am also kind of worried what will happen when they read (and possibly review) my book. Eep.

12. Parts of writing you enjoy the most?

Two things: when the characters start coming to life, and when the plot falls into place. I know that I’m on the right track when the characters start speaking to me even if I’m not writing. For example, just recently, one of the male characters in a current work in progress told me that he’s from Iloilo. For the plot, like what I wrote before, I often know the beginning and the end, but I struggle so much with the middle. I really enjoy the moment when something in the middle clicks, and the laboring to connect it to the end is not as hard anymore. :)

13. Parts of writing you find challenging?

The middle! Because I know how it ends and I want to get there, ASAP! There’s also always that time when every word I write feels awkward and I feel like I have the most horrible vocabulary in the world (how many times will I use the word laugh and glance in several paragraphs?!). But every time I get there, I tell myself that I am on the right track and I just need to keep writing.

14. What do you write with and on?

I write a lot of plot points in my phone and on random scraps of paper. Then I translate all those notes to my computer. I write using Rylie, my MacBook Air (and sometimes Grace the office laptop, when I get some free time at work). Right now I use MS Word, so I don’t have to change the document format when I send it for beta-reading or editing later on. I wish I could go back to Scrivener, but I need to save up to get that upgrade.

I still journal, though, mostly for prayers, and I like those blank Muji notebooks. :D

15. How do you overcome writers block?

I have a friend at work who I just bug when I need to hammer out a plot. I just talk to her, and sometimes even if she doesn’t say anything, I get an answer. I call her my muse, sometimes. Hihi, hi, Grace! :D

Sometimes, I just take a walk.

Or I go to TV Tropes to do research. It’s a black hole, though. ;)

16. How do you motivate yourself to write?

I bribe myself sometimes. I used to do that a lot for NaNoWriMo – like, I can’t buy this book until I reach a certain word count. Sometimes, when that doesn’t work, I go and read similar books to what I’m writing and try to dissect it. How did it work, how they weaved the plot, how the characters came alive.

Support from friends (and sometimes friendly pressure) really, really works, too.

17. Authors who inspire you as a writer?

There’s Mina V. Esguerra, who generously gave her time to teach us in the first batch of #romanceclass. I wouldn’t have gone this far (and wouldn’t have planned to go farther) if it weren’t for her. My fellow #romanceclass authors inspire me, too, because they’re all brave enough to do what some of us have never done before, and I want to be brave like them, too.

As for authors I do not know personally but really inspire me, there’s Melina Marchetta, John Green, Sarah Dessen, Sarah Addison Allen, and Jasper Fforde. I will never be able to write stuff like they do, but their words inspire me to write my own. :)

18. Books that inspire you as a writer?

One of my favorite books while doing NaNoWriMo was Chris Baty’s No Plot? No Problem! That is basically the battle cry of every NaNoWriMo season. ;) Victoria Schmidt’s 45 Master Characters is really more of a handbook, but it helped me so much with forming characters that it’s my go-to book when I need to figure out something about my character’s personality.

Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly is another, because I’m pretty sure writing and putting them out into the world is an act of daring greatly. I really liked the part where she talked about gremlins, and how she, as a writer, has her own gremlins, and she has to fight hard not to listen to them when they tell her she’s not good enough. Then there’s also a chapter in Shauna Niequist’s Cold Tangerines about writing that spoke so much to me (a little long, but bear with me here):

You pray for wonderful, honest, gritty, tender stories to write, but then you have to live through them.

What writing teaches me, over and over, is that God is waiting to be found everywhere, in the darkest corners of our lives, the dead ends and bad neighborhoods we wake up in, and in the simplest, lightest, most singular moments. He’s hiding, like a child, in quite obvious and visible places, because he wants to be found. The miracle is that he dwells in both. I knew he dwelt in the latter, the bright and beautiful, because I had been finding him there for years, in the small moments of beauty and hope that poke through the darkness of our days.

But lately I have been finding him not just under the darkness, but in it, right within the blackness and deadness of these days. I have found a strange beauty in the darkness, one I’ve never seen, a slower, subtler beauty, like how an old woman’s skin is more telling and rich than a teenage girl’s, how a storm can make you feel more deep emotion than a sunny day ever did. When I write, I find a whole new universe I never saw before, like being underwater for the first time, having never before seen what’s under the glassy surface.

…Every life tells a story, through words and actions and choices, through our homes and our children, through our clothes and dishes and perfume. We each play a character in a grand drama, and every stage direction matters. We tell our stories, and we let God’s story be told through our stories. We hide and we seek, and we lose ourselves in the best possible way, and find things around us and inside ourselves that we never expected. We tell God’s story as we live and discover our own. We know God is a storyteller. He’s a mad scientist and a father and a magician, and certainly, he’s a storyteller. And I don’t know if there’s anything better in the world than when we lay ourselves wide open and let his story become our story, when we screw up our fists and our courage and start to tell the truest, best stories we know, which are always God’s stories.

19. Best advice you’ve gotten as a writer?

You have a story to tell. I mean, everyone has a story to tell, but sometimes, we forget.

20. Writing goals this year?

Finally publish that book, and then finish writing its spin-off. Hopefully publish that, too.


Anne, Stella, Kesh, and Chris :D

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