Magic and more with JY Yang

I am super excited to share this week’s episode with you folks! I have a wonderful talk with the wildly talented JY Yang. We talk the difference in writing short stories, novellas, and novels. JY talks about their recently released novellas The Red Threads of Fortune and The Black Tides of Heaven. 

I had a blast talking to them. I hope you enjoy!

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JY Yang is the author of the Tensorate novellas from Tor.Com Publishing (The Red Threads of Fortune, The Black Tides of Heaven and two more slated for 2018). They live in Singapore and identify as queer and non-binary. Find them online at http://jyyang.com, or on Twitter: @halleluyang.

iTunes: https://goo.gl/bAXgLY 
Stitcher: https://goo.gl/ji3Yuy
Google Play: https://goo.gl/WTyuNu

Support the show on Patreon!

 

present mind, writing hands

As I sat down to write the post I thought, “This is great. I need to do this every day. I need to make time for writing outside of my fiction projects.” Other random, obscured thoughts circled my mind in a series that eventually formed some sort of long drawn out idea or concept. One after another like a flip book of procrastination. All my mind wandering halted when I released I wasn’t writing anything down. I also do this when I’m drafting. Think, and not write. I’m forward not present.

I talk a lot on Too Many Words about listening to the gut whisper and how part of knowing your process is understanding how every day it’s a little or completely different from the day before. Thinking and writing usually means one of three things.

  1. I haven’t given myself enough backtrack thinking.
  2. Free writing is necessary.  -OR-
  3. I need scribble down the arc for a short that won’t be quiet.
  4. Lunch is necessary.

The common thread between all three is that I need to be doing something other than what I can’t help but stare at. Even switching from computer to notebook helps. Hell, it’s the last day of NaNoWriMo and I completed my 50,000 words. Actually, I got to 52,010 words but who’s counting?

Isn’t that point?

Yes, and no.

Everyone who sets out to do NaNoWriMo has there own reason, even if it’s just the comradery of committing to write 50,000 words in one month with a collection of writers all around the world. I like that feeling. I needed that boost to get me working on this incredibly intimating, dragon-sized rewrite. Now as we enter December I am nearing the midpoint of the project and I am just gonna keep going until this phase is at an end.

My life feels too full lately (or always). We as a family unit are operating at faster frequency, with two kids in elementary school and activities they want to try ontop of both me and my husband working. (Something many juggle.) It’s tough for me to see either of my kids have a stressful time. At the end of the day my main goal as parents is that my children feel supported. I remember how hard school was. Gosh, I barely made it out. But I do best to be present when they are, to give them a steady backing because not having one as a kid made everything harder. So when I sit to write, to work, I think of it as for me, because  I love and need it. I do not treat it like the blistering, humbling hell it sometimes feels like.

It’s tricky balancing life and work and family and self and breathing. I am still working and grinding toward my goals so when I look at a day where I wasn’t as productive as I’d like to be or ended up needing to do a whole bunch of things I didn’t count for in my 2 am planning it can feel impossible to accept all I did do. It’s hard to see accomplishment when it’s this gradual, forever process of building a writing career, of writing a book, of revising. Whatever, sometimes it just doesn’t jive or flow or really I just need an apple and a walk to smooth the thoughts out. Stepping away feels like the worst thing in the world because it feels like failure.

Repeat after me, “Taking care of yourself isn’t failing.”

As I have mentioned on Too Many Words recently, I’ve been managing my anxiety disorder. I have known that anxiety is dragon I have to tame. I’ve had panic attacks when I was a teenager. Socially, forget about it. But over the last year and a half, my anxiety built a mega city and now I need to practice tools and exhaust myself with yoga so I don’t chew on my leg like a dog that needs a walk. I have been practicing yoga most mornings before the house is awake. I push myself and breath and am gradually working up to a handstand (I’m close) One of the schools of yoga is Hatha. Which is basically holding different positions. One after the other until you’re sweating, tingly, and you’ve forgotten what’s plaguing you because you’re tired and starving.

When I am doing a side plank with my knee to my nose all I am thinking about is not pulling a muscle I didn’t know I had. I am breathing through it. I know what my stomach is doing. Every muscle holding me up is at the forefront of the mind. Once I settled into the moment, once I’ve mastered it, then it’s time for the next position. (Warrior 3 is my favorite.)
I’m not telling you to do yoga but the act of fully being present and then repeating it with different positions is a lot like the mind needed for drafting. Ease back on the toes. Write down character’s nagging motivation. Pull in the navel. Fold into the scene. Find out what’s important. Lower back pinches so you ease forward. Your hand is on your calve instead of the floor. Switch voices. Jot that idea down and then come back.

It’s all a dance. All of it.
As I come to the end of this post I have the element I was missing for a scene I planned on writing. So I’m gonna get on that.
As always thanks for reading.

-J

Episode 55 with Jason Heller

episode55promo.pngJason Heller and I have a great time talking outlines, the future of post-apocalyptic fiction, tricks writers play on themselves, and his forthcoming book “Strange Stars.” Before Jason comes on, I share my NanoWriMo progress, books I’m reading, and updates about the show.
This episode features the song “Corpse Candle” by Weathered Statues. Support the show on patron.com/toomanywords

Humbled by Stories and Pie

Fall is approaching. The kids are back in school. My house is quiet. Cinnamon is suddenly more appealing. Our planet seems to be crumbling down around us. I spent the summer writing scenes that never needed to exist for the story I was telling because I thought I was writing another one. I discovered the amazing world of paleo-style cooking in a nobel attempt to be healthier and have a hobby outside of words.  I’m currently sitting at my desk ready to crank out some smaller pieces in hopes of earning modest piles of cash. It’s been too long since the last blog post, nerves were starting to climb my legs, so I popped over here to write this. The moment my fingers hit the keys my mind started jumping all over like a confused frog with no tongue.
I’ve learned so much in the last eight or so months. I did it with crash-course grace, and my head is still spinning on its side. I made so many mistakes with my latest project—the one that I’ve been obsessing over and nothing else. (Part of the problem, btw.) I know what you are thinking. “It’s all part of it.” “Probably not as bad as you think.” “That’s what editing is for.”
No, really. I broke it. For now. I wasn’t listening to the character’s true voice and allowed my goals to distract me. The first moment I started the project till right before I finally listened to myself, was a continuous and reactionary series of events. I walked away for its own good. This was a hard thing to swallow. Really hard. Making mistakes is sometimes the best way to learn. My husband always says to the kids, “If you aren’t making mistakes you aren’t growing.” So, I guess I grew up a lot over the last year.
As a parent I watch my kids slip in and out of these developmental phases. There is nothing like children to remind you of how temporary life is. Oh so humbling. I so seldom pay attention to my cycles of learning and moods. If you are only a little familiar with me, you know my love for Alice in Wonderland. The story is so much more than children’s fantasy. It’s a story about growing up and how our environment messes with us as we go. We have choices, and they have consequences. It’s a metaphor for life, for writing a story, and periods of time that have more of an impact than others. Lost innocence is the place we all visit at some point. Wonderland can symbolize many things, but sometimes I think of it as a representation of a phase. The thing about life? ‘Our now’ feels forever. For me, it’s those milestone birthdays or the realization of how old Moe the cat is that really shows me all that’s changed. This summer that just soared by was on the other side of a door in a hole. I’ve been chasing this project for the last eight months (or more) that didn’t want to be chased. There is a story there, one I have to tell, but my mind is on other projects that are ready for me now. Sometimes a story has to wait. It hurts, and it always sucks. I trust that my path with lead back to it.
As disappointed as I am that my WIP and I need some time apart, I am equally excited about all the short fiction I have in the works, essays of thoughts, working with Rebecca Clark on The Shadow Bearers again, and another wave of Too Many Words Episodes. (More info on all that soon.) The words will find me, as they will find you.
I wrap this up with:
Keep the critic in your pocket, listen to your gut, and have fun tormenting your characters that all want something.

maybe try this…

I like to think of writing as a ‘gut’ business. Books are personal at the core, so emotional inspiration or interest is part of it—just a level, but still important. One slice of cheddar cheese makes all the difference in a ham sandwich. Following my gut is how I solve problems in the arcs, know when ideas or worth something, and on and on.

The problem is, the inner-critic sometimes gets in the way of gut listening. Something I am working on. I had some dancing with my demons while I reread my current work in progress and wrote a reverse outline to track plot lines and beats all while keeping other feedback in mind. I had multiple unhelpful voices coming in and telling me any shred of an idea I had was no good. I’m not sure if this is just the way it has to be. I have to feel desperate in order to have ideas. I don’t know, nor do I know where today went. It’s been a sea of notes and ideas and outlining and panic since around 9 am.

I am feeling confident that I’m on the right track. These issues are being solved just as they should be, one at a time. Putting a story together in a new world is a puzzle. Every piece adds up, but in this case, some of the pieces are never seen.

Sometimes it’s daunting to think of all the pieces at once. It isn’t helpful to try and swallow all of it—a dance that happens in steps. That speaks to a lot of phases in the process. I am still figuring all this out as I go and still trying to achieve my goals so I wouldn’t take this writing advice and theories to heart because I am just trying to figure it out. One thing I am damn certain of is words shake other words free. So I am dumping some thoughts out to find the words I need, and maybe my words will poke at some words or hope you need. Who knows?

It is all too easy to get caught up in the desperate need to create and share and publish when the focus at the moment should be the experience of creating. It really is an amazing thing, especially when it flows. The act of forming a spell or a creature is a thrill.

I guess I will end this rant by concluding with, savor the small moments and enjoy the ride.

blindfolded in a sea of notebooks

It’s been weird by me. To say I’m in a mood, or a weird phase sums it up mostly. Nothing really terrible is happening. My life is good. I’m lucky. I’ve been in a writing funk, that’s all.  Actually, a lot of good things are in the works. Maybe it’s waiting. I’m not sure. Being humbled is part of the writing gig. I’ve been humbled, but I’m on the trail while being humbled. The not thinking of something really gets under my skin.

Ideas are everything.

It has been eight days without a cigarette, and I’m knee-deep in revisions. Something I have trouble with is the “not writing’ part of the process. Dumping random thoughts into journals helps to discover clues and details. Not knowing how to fix issues gnaws at my feet. Slowly but surely I’m finding answers.

I’ve realized I’ve been reacting lately—the past year or two really. It’s almost the end of my youngest’s first-grade year. When he started kindergarten, I started writing full time without having a clue as to what to expect even though I thought I did. It is very different than part-time writing. Writing as the main gig is hard. I love it. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else if I’m being honest. Sure, there are moments where I imagine opening a bakery or being a dog trainer. But I always come to my words and my goals in the literary world. It’s a slow game, one that requires thick skin, obsession, and passion. Being stubborn helps too.

The same month we entered that different phase in our family, both kids in school and my full-time writing, my best friend died, and I plummeted myself into an emotional YA contemporary until I was done which happened 95,000 words or so later. This still sits in a drawer. Fantasy is more my bag, and that was a pile of mess and emotions and processing thoughts, that maybe one day I’ll dig up. Then my small publisher closed and my published book and my schedule to release one disappeared like vapor for a hot second. I’ve been hacking away since then, making minor successes and learning as I stumble and make mistakes. I am learning a whole heck of a lot and good news for me I’m stubborn as hell. I couldn’t do this without it. At some point I stopped bouncing from project to project and became obsessed with world building and this big huge concept. That is where I still am. I can’t blink my eyes and be onto the next step. This is where I am. Listening, hunting, finding, and fixing.

So that’s a long way of saying my current status is eight days without smokes and wandering the jungle path of revisions, tracking and solving problem by problem while I do my best to have fun with it all and remember I’m lucky. It’s too easy to get caught up in the harsher notes. Listening to the softer sound is a neater rhythm. I’m learning to deal with things as they arise, so they don’t build panic like wet sneakers grow mold in the back of my coat closet.

Today was one of my most productive writing days in over a month. I got a lot figured out and down on paper. Looking at all angles is hard but necessary.
Some days are chipping away at an iceberg with a fork, and others are like setting your fingers of fire, but instead of flame, it’s words.
Can’t have one without the other.

heroes and holes to different realms

I think about Alice in Wonderland a lot. Leather bound and aged. Aside from the story being one of the first I can point to for having opened the literary realms to me, the meaning of the story and feeling it gives me adds to my daily thoughts. Seeds and caterpillars. Dreams and age. Creatures and villains.

The hero’s story is one of change and purpose. An often grabbed trope in this arc is the loss of innocence. It is something we all go through. The journey through fallen dreams and life-hardened perspectives aren’t possible without it.

The manuscript that is being edited right now was a trip I enjoyed so much I decided it had to be a series. A world I want to stay in. The project out of my hands leaves a sour hole in my chest. Something I need to fill. I’m someone that has to have something to obsess over—ideas to hobble together. Drafting the second while the first one fed through the grinder didn’t seem like something I could do at the moment. Juggling fire on a tight rope blindfolded. At least one eye. But like ideas and gardens and stewing plots, I had projects and characters on the back burner. I pumped out three short stories. These were swirling around for a good while. They came right out. Cleaned up nicely and off they went.

“Okay,” I told myself. “It’s time to dive into the manuscript concept burning a whole in your back pocket.”

Because it has been trying to come out for years in different ways. I found the story and what the characters were doing. I sat down.

Nothing.

Some words.

Five different tries.

Feeling nothing. Oh wait, panic, that’s right.

I don’t know how you guys are with ideas. But, they feel like my air. When I can’t grab one I ask myself, “Was that it? Is that all I have? Am I tapped out?”

One thing that I am learning right now—something I should have probably known already but didn’t look at it as it stood in the corner pointing at me—writing sometimes means not writing.

Sometimes wandering and living and walking nowhere is how you write, how I write. Getting lost to find things. It’s hard for me not to work. I have yet to reach my career goals so most of the time it feels impossible to justify not working. But working means different things. I’ve been lucky the last nine months. I’ve been flush with ideas and energy to pump it out.
I spent four days not writing, it felt like torture, but now I have the format and voice I was looking for.
I’ve heard so many writers say, “The path to every book is different,” I can’t even count. Like so many sayings that are used too often, they lose their weight, but they exist for good reason. Every path is different. Each story has a rhythm, their own beat, and heart and blood.
So, yes, my mind is in a better spot right now. I’m getting into the groove with this book, but I’m not diving so deep in just yet. Edits for my other project will be dropping in any day. Then these ideas will wiggle and work stuff out in the background while I go through the edits.
Part of me is excited to get them back and eager to get my fingers in there and get dirty. But, I’m also nervous—before-you-get-on-a-really-loopy-rollercoaster nervous. I’m not sure what to expect. I have an idea, maybe. Guesses. The unknown is always intriguing to ponder.
The dance between liking and loathing lack of control.
I think that wraps this up, for now, I’ve gone on long enough. I’d like to sink my teeth into some drafting this strange, scary, and heartbreaking new project before my stomach and brain demands lunch.