There are two ways to go about this #buqoYA experience. For starters, let me go with a summary of the whole experience – it was great, it was enriching, and I finished The Thing. I celebrated with coffee and cake. The story, both the one I wrote and this writing journey, ended with a ‘happily ever after’.
But for a better story, let me say this: I finished – yes, I did – but not on time.
I have no excuses. I had to rewrite the first 1000 words at least four times until I found a writing tone and style that I felt suited both the characters and the plot. I dug my own grave by giving my main character all these obstacles that I had to solve along with him. I spent the last week of the class writing the first 41,000 words even with the knowledge that I wouldn’t make the deadline, not by a long mile. So I attended the last meeting for the #buqoYA class with a slightly heavy heart, knowing that I didn’t have anything to turn in. Don’t get me wrong – I was still determined to finish the story. I just knew it would take me much longer to finish, given the heavy feeling of watching Opportunity walk away from me when I already had it in my arms.
I turned it in a few days after, nonetheless. Kept distance from it for a few days until the initial regret subsided and until work allowed me to have time to further edit and polish the piece. I kept working on it, adding and removing and adding more stuff. At this point, I told myself, y’know, even if you don’t make the final cut, it’s okay. It’s the experience that matters. There’s always a next time. After all, by turning in a manuscript late, I was playing with chance, duelling with luck. I was fighting a battle with all my shields down and only a pen (or a keyboard) as my weapon.
So you can only imagine the shock, surprise, the elation when I got a message from Ms. Mina a few days after, saying, “Got it 🙂 Submit on Mar 22? :)” I screamed in my mind for a good five minutes, grinned in real life for another five. Got myself a nice cup of coffee after that, then wrote down a reminder for myself on a sticky note – work on the cover, YOU’RE GETTING PUBLISHED!
And now, here I am, writing down my #buqoYA experience. Just thinking about it makes me giddy. It’s literally the fulfillment of a dream.
So what exactly did I learn from this experience? What were those key things that helped me get through all those trying weeks?
1. Write something you like, and stick with it no matter what.
Yeah, yeah, I know what some will say: being stubborn and hard-headed won’t get you anywhere. You have to be open to feedback. True, but what I meant by this was not being so wishy-washy about what you want to write. Sit down and go through your options. Identify which of those you feel the strongest for, then run away with it. Write until you’re satisfied with what you have, not until you finish. The common misconception is that the writing process ends once you hit that last pivotal plot point in your story. Might be true for some, but until the story stops feeling ‘unsatisfying’, keep going.
2. Get yourself a playlist. It will help. A LOT.
I know some writers who find it impossible to write with music playing in the background. I respect them, really, because I’m the complete opposite; 80% of the time, I can only write with iTunes on my side. Music sort of… helps me find that tone I want to use in my writing, and helps me hit hard when I have to, as well. Helps me nail down The Feels I need for specific scenes. And I know for sure that the last scene before the end of part one for Match Point Mishap? I wouldn’t have been able to write that without the help of Pareng Ed Sheeran. (Yes, close kami.)
3. Set a goal and a schedule.
“I’m too busy!” is the common excuse for people who find it hard to set aside time to write, but how else will you get things written? We all get busy, some more than the others; the important thing is to always set aside time to write. An hour a day can go a long way. Start small: try thirty minutes a day, or set a target of, let’s say, 500 words or half a scene a day. If you don’t fancy daily goals, try weekly ones. The volume of writing you do in a day isn’t what’s important; it’s making writing a habit that is.
4. Even if things aren’t looking too good for you, DON’T GIVE UP.
I’ve already talked about this in the intro, but I can’t reiterate it enough: never give up on what you write. It may feel like a lost cause or you might feel that you’re just digging an even deeper grave for yourself by tackling certain issues in your stories, but at the very end it will all be worth it. I submitted my manuscript days late, hoping against hope that it will be given the chance to be part of the bundles, and I got in. So just keep trying. Only when you’ve exhausted all of your resources are you allowed to give up. These characters of yours are your babies; will you just allow them to wallow in the bottomless pit of works-in-progress?
And ultimately? Fall in love with what you write. Fall madly in love with it until it shows in your writing. 🙂
And those are my two cents (and a couple of pesos)! #buqoYA was such a great writing and learning experience. I won’t mind doing it again, and again, and again.