Before I start sharing my goals for 2021, let me briefly talk about 2020: it was a bad year for everyone including myself and I found myself dealing with certain personal things and became somewhat overwhelmed and tried to cope. In any case, I lost interest in writing, blogging, and social media for the most part. Now that it’s 2021, have I regained my interest in them? Who knows. But I  was doing okay before, so I kinda want to (regain interest). To facilitate that, here I am setting goals for 2021…

1. New Year, New Name.

Starting 2021, the name I’ll be using for my writerly self shall be Steph Arven. I’ve decided to separate my writing stuff from my Sathepine pseudonym and channel it all to the Steph Arven persona. In case I haven’t mentioned before, Sathepine is an anagram for Stephanie, which is my real name. I’ve used it for other things, not just writing stuff. As for the Steph Arven name, we know where the “Steph” comes from, but not the Arven. Arven is a combination of my grandfathers’ names (Ar = Arceo, ven = Venancio). I hope to use this name from now on, especially in social media, even if it means I’ll lose all my previous followers now (at least, in Twitter and Instagram). But I’m not counting anyway, so it’s all good.

2. Read and review the top ten books in the 2020 Goodreads Choice Awards for: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Poetry, and Young Adult Fantasy/Sci-Fi. 

Not all these books may be to my taste but the challenge is to read what is popular, what is mainstream, what readers in general enjoyed (or at least got hyped up enough to vote for). Then we’ll see if I enjoyed them just as much. 

For books that are part of a series, I’ll only commit to reading and reviewing the first book of that series, although, of course, it would be great if I manage to read up to that book itself.

3. Read and review at least five indie novels.

I do have plans to self-publish in the future (though I’m not in a hurry as my work is a priority right now), and would like to support self-published authors. I have a condition, though, and that is I will not be posting my review of self-published books that I didn’t enjoy. So, for self-published books, at least, I’ll only be posting my review of those that I rate to be 3-stars or more. (My 3-stars rating means I enjoyed it enough to say it’s worth the time and money I spent on the book.)

4. Write at least one poem per month.

By doing this, I could hopefully ensure there’s at least one post in this blog per month. I’d really like to keep my blog active from month to month, and not just have a ton of posts at the end of the year or something (which I fear might happen). I also have some past poems that are not posted (or are privated) but I’m not sure yet if I want to post (or un-private) them. (Also, can “private” be used as a verb? lol)

5. Watch and review at least one movie or show based on a fantasy or science fiction novel.

I was planning to do this for The Witcher last year, but, well, I didn’t. This year, I could still do The Witcher (before the new season), or I can do The Expanse (I’ve been wanting to read the books and watch the show for some time now), or Dune (I’m not sure how much of the first book I’ve read but I haven’t finished it that time and hoping to read from the beginning before the movie), or Shadow and Bone (I’m excited! I didn’t really like the main character but I love the world building in this series and I hope the upcoming Netflix show does it justice!)

6. Post at least one instagram photo, and one tweet per week.

I’m gonna populate my Steph Arven social media slowly but surely… with nice things of course! And for sure I’ll be following a bunch of nice accounts too. 

7. Complete plotting the outline for my next NaNoWriMo project before November.

As I’m going the plotting (rather than pantsing) route, an outline is a must. My pantsing gets me everywhere but the ending so I feel that plotting — with a little bit of pantsing — would provide much better results for me. Ideally, I would like to finish the outline early so I can send it to someone for feedback (like I did in 2019 — thank you for the helpful feedback, Jennifer Jarrett!)

8. Win NaNoWriMo 2021.

It’s been a while since I wrote 50,000 words in one month. I’d like to do that this year. I haven’t lost in Nano yet! (Unless you consider 2020, which I didn’t even participate in — though I’m sure I would have lost it if I did — I was quite busy at work and dealing with personal issues…)

8. Turn my zero draft of COTC into a first draft.

COTC stands for “Claire of the Corpses”, which is a temporary title so I’m simply gonna label it COTC from now on. This was my project for NaNoWriMo 2019 so I have roughly 50,000 words on it. There are missing scenes, descriptions, worldbuilding elements, etc. so my goal is to fill in all of those to complete the draft. (Of course, once I have a complete first draft, I’d still have to revise that.) I plan to use Camp Nano in April for this activity.

9. Rework my TMM outline.

TMM was my project for NaNoWriMo 2018 and it stands for “The Moonseeker’s Medallion”, which is a temporary title, so, like COTC, I’m just using it as a label. It’s a huge mess. Well, it’s a bit less messy now… but still a mess! So it’s not really a priority, but I still enjoy this world so I’ll try to get it a bit more organized for Camp Nano in July. 

10. Go on a one-week “writing retreat” by myself. 

Most likely, it will be a staycation at some hotel, where my activities will only be writing, eating, and sleeping. (And some other stuff for hygiene.) We are anticipating that work will be busier this year so I probably won’t have that much energy or mood to work on my writing on normal days. So this “writing retreat” shall be my answer to that.

To be frank, I have no idea right now if these goals are modest or ambitious. In theory, I feel like they’re totally doable, but then again, I had planned to do some of them last year… yet I didn’t (grr, 2020!) What I am sure of, though, is that I’m definitely feeling hopeful and have a much brighter outlook for 2021. 

Happy New Year!

For Nanowrimo last year, I decided to tackle a brand new story from one of the ideas I had that I’ve never really drafted. My WIP at that time was incredibly ambitious – for me, at least – and I’ve decided to put it on hold for this new project. However, because of what I’ve learned from tackling that ambitious WIP, I realize there are things that seem to be holding me back from fully fleshing out my new WIP.

The most significant one, I feel, is the fear of world-building. I felt that this time, I’m not going to start on the world-building until I’ve fleshed out the plot. Yet even when I’ve completed the outline of my story, I still find myself afraid to really focus on the world-building. In the previous WIP, I was engrossed in the world-building and not so much in the story, and as a result, I built a story that would serve the world-building rather than the other way around. It was a mess (and still is, actually). Right now, I’m afraid I’d do the same thing again, even though I have a somewhat solid outline where I can pull out the parts that need world-building – and do only those parts. This is something I’m gonna have to tackle if I’m going to complete the story.

Another thing holding me back is fleshing out other characters. This is another fear borne out of my experience with my previous (still unfinished) WIP. That one had a ton of characters with POVs and some significant ones without POVs. For these characters, I know their character arcs, personalities, and relationships with other characters. And because of that, I have far too many subplots. For the new project, I found myself afraid to even touch the secondary characters’ backstories. I feel very little connection – or none at all – to the characters aside from the protagonist. A few of them would need some backstory – of which I have a general concept, but only in broad strokes – to sort-of explain their relationship or interaction with the main character, and I’m just afraid to flesh them out, afraid I’d end up with a runaway subplot and create random characters or conflict or scenes for that specific subplot, even though I know better now.

The last thing that I feel could be potentially holding me back is my resistance to writing in first person. Objectively speaking, I’m starting to believe that a first-person POV would enhance the storytelling given the character’s internal struggle, but I refrain from doing it for a few reasons. Let me start by saying that this story idea was inspired by depressing things, and I believe at that time, I was really into dark depressing anime. And for some reason when writing this story, I somehow wanted to preserve that kind of depressing tone which I feel works well with it being a dark fantasy. I don’t want it to end up being some kind of self-insert but in a depressing way, with me remembering how I felt back then when this idea came to mind. Or, I might mess up the tone because, at the time of writing it, I’m not really feeling depress-y. Also, the main character is supposed to have a personality different from mine. Would I lose track of her personality and end up inserting mine instead? I don’t know. Well, this issue is really just a thought and it’s not a big deal. I’m quite comfortable with third person limited and will continue to tell the story that way. (I also suspect these are all based on my own misconceptions of what it’s like writing in first person.)

If you are currently writing, is there anything holding you back?

I was planning to post an update of my current progress but decided on this topic instead because there’s really not much to update as of now. I am updating my outline based on the 50K+ words I’ve drafted and have grouped and regrouped the scenes into chapters. The outline is basically for me to check if everything flows well structurally without having to read through everything, but apparently, it’s not easy to summarize a scene (in paragraph or list format) and not that much fun either. I also can’t seem to make up my mind on which scenes should go together in a chapter. Right now, I’m looking at about 35-40 chapters for around 70 scenes. I hope to complete the draft and the updated outline by the end of Feb this year. We’ll see if I can accomplish that.

 

IMG_0783This is going to be a quick update: I’m proud to report I won NaNoWriMo with a total of 50,195 words! I was planning to update my blog as I go along, but I was just so drained every day that I really struggled to even catch up to the recommended word count even towards the end. Posting a blog update just felt like more struggle. I don’t know why I’m feeling this way, honestly, but I can tell you, if it weren’t for my outline, I probably would have completely lost. However, because I already know the direction it’s heading, writing the story became less exciting to me. Does that make me a natural pantser? Pantsing makes me go off-tangent pretty quickly, though, so that was why I felt – and still feel – that outlining is the smarter move for me. Not to mention during pantsing, when I get a writer’s block… I really get a writer’s block. Outlining means, even when I’m not feeling it, I know what to write about, even though it may not excite me at that time. Is there a nice and sweet middle ground for this? Regardless, I’m definitely learning more about myself and the kind of writer I am. And that’s one of the great things about NaNoWriMo!

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? Did you learn something about yourself as a writer?

IMG_0245In a previous blog post, I mentioned a checklist of what I intend to prepare before NaNoWriMo hits:

  1. Chapter Outline
  2. Character Descriptions
  3. Aesthetics/Moodboard
  4. Writing Music Playlist
  5. Milestone Rewards

It’s now the end of October, and I think I did well for myself, although there are still a lot of kinks to sort out and a lot of details missing. However, the missing details won’t hinder me too much and I can work through them after, if not during NaNoWriMo (but I don’t want to spend too much time on them during Nano). Before I proceed with my update, I would like to mention the book that helped me sort out my story – Outlining Your Novel Workbook by K.M. Weiland. I’ve read the book and learned a lot so I decided to go ahead and purchase the workbook.

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I have not completed the workbook yet and don’t really have the time to complete it before Nano, but I enjoyed the exercises. Basically, the book presents exercises through questions that you can answer to flesh out elements of your story more. I have completed Chapter 1 (The Premise), Chapter 2 (General Sketches) is partly done and partly being worked on, and I’ve done a bit as well for the rest of the chapters (Backstory, Character Interviews, Setting, Extended Outline, Unconventional Outlines). Maybe next year I’ll do this same workbook again, but start my prepping in September. (Or earlier!) I am eyeing another workbook about story structure by the same author, which I will probably do when I’ve completed the draft and in revising mode. I don’t know when that will be because, after Nano, I plan to go back to the fantasy WIP I had been working on and shelve this story for the meantime.

Without further ado, here’s my progress so far:

✔︎ Chapter Scene Outline

Instead of a chapter outline, I’ve created an outline for all the scenes in my story. There are 64 in total excluding the Prologue and Epilogue which are just very short scenes and will be written last if I really need them. Of course, I intend to group the scenes into chapters, but for now, the scene list is enough. Here is a glimpse of my scene outline using the corkboard view in Scrivener:

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I’ve numbered and titled each scene but those are for my own use only. I’m definitely going to go with the chapter title (or just the number) once I’ve grouped them into chapters, which will be separated by folders in Scrivener.

✔︎ Character Descriptions

This is definitely still a work in progress along with my setting descriptions (which I didn’t put in my checklist, silly me), but I have properly identified which characters or groups of characters will be present on which scenes (as well as the location/settings). In case you don’t know, Scrivener allows you to link them through document bookmarks. This means that when you click a scene, you can see which characters are in it, and likewise, if you click a character, you can see which scenes this character is in. Below is a quick look at my character list.

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As you can see, it’s still very much in progress, and the names are not final either because they were hastily thought out. But for NaNoWriMo, I will stick to those names. My working title is “Claire of the Corpses” and if I’m gonna keep that, then I’ll have to keep the name Claire.

✔︎ Aesthetics/Moodboard

I went ahead and created a Pinterest board for my story and here’s a shot of it:

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It is a private board so I won’t be sharing it, but it helps me visualize the look and feel of my story. It is also still in progress (and will probably always be in progress?) and I will be putting images in there from time to time if something catches my eyes (or if I find myself going down the Pinterest rabbit hole).

✔︎ Writing Music Playlist

This is a private Spotify playlist I’ve set up for my writing sessions which mirrors the tone of the story.

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Most of the music on the list are instrumental versions of songs or soundtrack from games and anime. I would say it is also still in progress as I intend to add more music to it.

😅 Milestone Rewards

Although I have some vague ideas of what rewards I could give myself per milestone (mostly sweets), I don’t know which milestones to use. Do I do it every 5k increment? 10k? Do I follow the writing badges in NaNoWriMo? In any case, I know what reward I will give myself after Nano, and that is a new iPad. My current iPad screen is broken and since it’s old I’ve decided to get a new one rather than try to see if they can repair the broken screen. I’ve been thinking of getting a new one for a while now, but when Preptober hit, I’ve decided I won’t be buying a new one until after Nano. Note that the iPad can be a distraction, after all, so after Nano will be the perfect time to get one.

So that’s it for my Preptober Update! I still have some time to get that ✔︎ for Milestone Rewards, but in any case, I am now much more confident about winning NaNoWriMo 2019, which is why I’m gonna go ahead and order that winner shirt right now!

It’s officially Preptober and I am going to be working on prepping for my NaNoWriMo 2019 project for the whole month of October.

I have a fantasy WIP that I’ve been working on, the same project I did for last year’s NaNoWriMo, but that one’s massive. It has multiple characters, multiple POVs, dragons, sorcerers, war(s), fictional language(s), lore… definitely requires me to create a world map, and I don’t even know how to begin with that… Let’s just say the very thorough outline I’ve been (re)working on for that will definitely not be ready by November.

So, therefore, I’ve decided to revisit an idea that I’ve never drafted before and use that for NaNoWriMo. It’s dark supernatural fantasy with — and this is key — only one main character (YAY!).

I’ve started doing some prep work right at the beginning of October, and here’s a couple of screenshots of my synopsis and outline (using Scrivener):

Those are not final at all and I don’t even have a title or any character names. However, I’m excited to plot it for the whole month of October and draft it when November comes.

Can I get 50K words? Even though I was able to accomplish that last year, I’m not as confident this year because my personal circumstances were different. However, I have learned from last year so I guess this year may be smoother and I might actually accomplish it.

Here are the things that I will be preparing based on what I learned from last year:

  1. Chapter Outline
  2. Character Descriptions
  3. Aesthetics/Moodboard
  4. Writing Music Playlist
  5. Milestone Rewards

I feel that drafting will definitely be easier if these things are prepared beforehand. I have a tendency to get off-tangent, thereby ending up with subplots that don’t advance the story. A chapter outline will keep me on track, hopefully. I also spend a lot of time fussing over character names, descriptions, personalities, etc, so preparing them in advance will definitely save me time. The rest are just to help motivate me when the time comes, so they’re not really priority.

Are you planning to join this year’s NaNoWriMo? Will you be preparing for it this month? Do you think my prep list is good enough?

I’ll be sure to give an update on my next post. Thank you for reading!