Thank you to Sophie @ Sophie’s Corner for tagging me in her post. Instead of describing one particular story project this time, I will be talking in general about my writing experiences.
Here we go!
- No tagging back
- Tag four people
- Thank the person who tagged you
- Come up with 10 new questions
At the moment, I’m writing the first draft of my novel, Annabelle and Cadence, the fourth and hopefully last book in my series. The tentative title of my series is The Gender Puzzle Maze. Each book concentrates on one couple, though the couples’ stories will all span till the end of the last book.
The Gender Puzzle Maze is a fantasy filled with miscellaneous elements, such as time travel, spell casting, potions, fairies, dragons, and much more. My first book was Theoten and Pyris, where Theo is a gay trans boy and Pyris a gay cis boy. The second book was Revillon and Klint, where Revy is an androphilic nonbinary person and Klint is a cis gay guy. The third book was Justin and Tobakus. Justin and Tobakus are both gay cis guys. Finally, we arrive at the current book, Annabelle and Cadence. Annabelle is an androphilic trans girl, and Cadence is a mostly gynephilic, bisexual genderfluid person. Theo, Pyris, Klint, Revy, and Annabelle are enchanters. Justin and Tobakus are spell casters, though Tobakus is also half ghoul. Cadence is pure ghoul. Enchanters and spell casters are magic-users, where the only difference between them is that spell casters have visible, colorful magic energy, while the magic energy of enchanters cannot be seen.
The overall genre of The Gender Puzzle Maze is fantasy LGBTQ+ romance.
I am a pure pantser. Some people don’t understand how I can write without planning. But I don’t understand how one can plan at all! When I was younger, I tried to “plan,” but I ended up wasting hours of my time because my story was 99.9% different from my plans. In fact, my planned plot events were like wishful daydreams or haunting nightmares—neither of which are likely to come true.
So now I don’t bother with plotting. Some people believe that pantsers never finish anything, or that our writing will be a complete mess. These beliefs are false. I am 100% a pantser, but I have finished writing 21 novels, where the English ones were around 350-400 pages each (about 300 words per page), and the Chinese books were around 300 pages each (about 400 words per page). Moreover, despite my lack of planning, my stories do turn out to be quite structured and organized. Whether a story ends up being a big mess or not, depends on our understanding of story structure, not on whether we plot or pants. My blogger friend Jami Gold, has a post addressing the misconceptions and negative stereotypes about pantsers:
Not including all those unfinished stories I still have on my computer, I want to write some LGBTQ+ romance in Pokemon fanfic. I have one fanfic with some queer and trans trainers and Pokemon, but the romance was mostly centered on the two human protagonists, not that much on the Pokemon. In particular, I would like to write a romance between two male Glaceon, and another romance between two female Leafeon.
As for original fiction, I plan to write erotica on the adventures of a gay trans boy. Not sure if I would ever have the courage to show anyone, though.
He is one of the stars of Lysander and Icarus, which is another fantasy LGBTQ+ romance of mine. Lysander is a cisgender, bisexual male escort. Icarus is a gay trans male detective. Both of them are spell casters. I find Icarus’s combination of identities intriguing, especially in contrast to his love interest Lysander’s.
As well, Icarus’s personality captivates me. He starts off being a jerk, but that only makes you crave his rare moments of kindness and tenderness all the more. Icarus has a sympathetic backstory, however, which explains why he can be so cold and mistrustful. But he does grow warmer and softer towards Lysander as time goes on. Icarus and Lysander both appear as secondary characters in the Gender Puzzle Maze.
Revillon uses fae, faer, faers, faerself pronouns. Fae is so cute, sweet, well-meaning, but sometimes comes off as harsh when fae is frustrated. Revy is an enchanter, and faer relationship with Klint is fascinating to watch. Fae is probably one of the cutest characters I have ever written.
There are many more characters I love, but I’ll stop here.
My routine is slightly different for fiction versus nonfiction writing. For fiction, I prefer to write at night, before and after dinner, though afternoons are fine too; I’m just most energetic at night. If I want to write faster, I would listen to music with no lyrics and a quicker beat, such as video game music. If I don’t care about my writing speed and just want to enjoy myself, I might listen to popular songs or movie soundtracks.
Interestingly, I realized that if I’m sleepy, which is more often than not, listening to songs with lyrics helps to wake me up; the lyrics don’t slow down my writing pace or disrupt my concentration. In fact, soothing music that’s supposed to lull you to sleep, actually arouses me, albeit in a pleasant way.
Another tool I use to rouse myself enough to write, is touching a box of ice, and dabbing some ice water on my neck or face. This ice water strategy was recommended in a book I read on insomnia, where they listed strategies to help people avoid taking naps, as naps can worsen your insomnia.
In the past, I would drink some mild caffeine, like mocha or French vanilla, since full-on coffee stimulates my brain so much that I can barely think clearly. But several weeks ago, I stopped drinking caffeine completely, in an attempt to improve my sleep. It only worked for one week, and after that, my insomnia got worse again. Regardless, I stopped drinking caffeine, unless you count the rare tea drinks, so that I can save my money.
Speaking of drinks, I sometimes enjoy Gatorade, Powerade, fruit juice, hot chocolate, or some fancy yogurt drink from Koreatown while I write. At times, I get fruity or milk tea, but not too often because I usually write late and these drinks are caffeinated. I also have a habit of getting up intermittently from my chair to grab a quick snack. If it’s close to bedtime, I like to munch on an apple while I type on my laptop as well.
For nonfiction writing, I tend to be less distractible than when I write fiction, probably because nonfiction requires more concentration. I’m less sleepy when I write nonfiction too. This may be related to how I find nonfiction books stimulating and exciting, and fiction books more relaxing and calming.
Since I feel less sleepy and can concentrate better when I write nonfiction, as opposed to fiction, I don’t need to rely on music as much to keep me awake, though there have been some instances where I was exceptionally sleepy. Music, with or without lyrics, is much more distracting for my nonfiction than for my story writing.
Do you see a pattern here? It seems that nonfiction is like a stimulant for my brain, whilst fiction is like a tranquillizer. There’s something very safe and soothing about the land of fiction, that my brain feels that it’s acceptable to shut off and go to sleep. It’s a wonder that I manage to finish writing all those novels, given my frequent sleepiness! I also managed to win NaNoWriMo seven years in a row, so my physical disadvantages don’t prevail over me.
As a matter of fact, I have trouble focusing on my writing nowadays, as I keep getting distracted by hunger, thirst, fatigue, sleepiness, or something else; however, in the long run, my concentration is strong. I persevere until it’s done. I rarely experience flow (getting into the zone) for my stories now, but this doesn’t make me love fiction-writing any less, and it definitely doesn’t reduce my determination to finish these projects!
As for my preferred location to write, I used to like typing in the library. But now, I like staying at home.
Furthermore, I type my stories directly onto my laptop, because I can pants pretty much on autopilot, as practice makes perfect. But with nonfiction, I need to write by hand first, because I can’t think clearly in front of a laptop screen, unless it’s for something that requires minimal cognitive effort.
What (or who) motivates you to write?
The main reason why I write is because I adore my story characters, and feel a duty to at least finish writing their books. I don’t want to be a disappointment to them.
I don’t want to be a disappointment to my friends either, especially as a number of them have expressed interest in reading my novels.
So I have to say that I’m motivated by guilt. I feel that to be a “responsible writer,” I need to write until I finish these stories, even if I don’t get to edit all of them in my lifetime. Realistically, I won’t even have time to finish writing all of my stories before I die, unless I never start new stories again.
Another motivation is that I enjoy learning more about myself through writing; the meanings I discover in life become deeper and more potent when I write them down, whether through fiction or nonfiction.
Moreover, when I write, I get to craft the stories and blog articles that I want to see. This is especially so for my novels. We don’t have enough stories with trans and nonbinary protagonists. This needs to change! I know that the trans community is diverse, and no one has the same experiences, but I am blessed to be a transgender author, as this gives me an insight into trans characters that cis authors may not have, though I still encourage cis authors to write about us.
On an amusing note, I wrote and finished this long novel series before I realized I was trans; when I reread this series, I found that a number of my characters were clearly transgender! It was still quite cool how my subconscious knew before I did.
Back when I first wrote this series, I thought it was completely normal to hate being your own gender and want to be the opposite gender—didn’t everybody feel like this? Not that we need to be “normal,” but I have since learned that most people are not interested in turning into the opposite gender, at least not permanently. Before I create any misunderstandings here, gender identity is not determined by our physical characteristics. Gender is internal and cannot be seen by others. My story is set in ancient China, however, where people didn’t know anything about trans folks, aside from that the existence of some gender-nonconforming people.
A trans female character in this long novel series, was in fact inspired by a real-life trans female friend of mine, though I didn’t know that the latter was trans either! When my friend and I first met, she thought I was a girl and I thought she was a boy. The truth is almost the opposite: my friend is a trans girl, while I’m a transmasculine nonbinary person.
What do you find is the easiest part about writing? The hardest?
The easiest part about writing, is the pantsing. I don’t need to think at all, and I can already see in my mind what the characters are doing and saying. I wasn’t always able to do this, however. In the past, I couldn’t pants over large time gaps, e.g. what will happen one day later? Several weeks later? Etc. But now I can pants over great time distances with ease, no doubt because of the training I got from pantsing that long novel series for more than 1.5 million words!
The hardest part about writing might be the editing, because that’s when I let my inner perfectionist out—I suppress it while I draft. I do enjoy editing, but I take so long to finish editing anything. For the one book I self-published, I am now embarrassed by it; I want to mass edit this book and make a second edition. Even for nonfiction, whether it be papers, assignments, or blog articles, I typically spend several hours editing them. I am rewarded for my dedication, though, as friends, classmates, tutors, teaching assistants, and professors, often praise me for the clarity of my writing. Sometimes, it seems like I care about clarity more than anything else when it comes to writing.
What genre will you never try, and why?
Probably westerns. I’m just not very interested in this genre, though I’m open to reading them. As well, I will likely never write chick lit or women’s fiction, because I don’t want to have my transmasc identity invalidated further by biological essentialists.
On the other hand, I used to be too bashful to try my hand at erotica, but now I’m writing some. They’re not serious pieces, though, and they feel so private that I’ll probably not share any of my erotic fiction with anyone other than some trusted friends. I also grew up in a very sex-negative environment, which may explain my squeamishness, though I can at least write sex scenes in my romances now.
Share a tiny (or large) snippet/ excerpt of your writing, if you’re comfortable!
I’m not that comfortable sharing excerpts in public. But for the sake of this tag, I’ll give you a glimpse into a chapter in Justin and Tobakus. I edited some of the excerpt below to make it understandable for readers of this blog post. Note that this scene is in Justin’s point-of-view. His last name is Fairwater, and his proper first name is “Destined”. You may be able to guess why he prefers to call himself “Justin” instead. In addition, Klint has a younger brother named Ani, who is mentioned once in this excerpt. Furthermore, in my story, there is the lighter dimension, which is our ordinary world. There is also the darker dimension, where ghouls and other dark spirits reside. Yet, the darker dimension is not the same as the underworld, aka the land of the dead, the place where deceased beings go to. Dark spirits, including ghouls, have the power to visit the underworld, but most dark spirits would rather avoid that place.
Trevian Gleamstone hollered, “Bring Cadence to the living room!”
“Yes, Master,” came the little demon’s obsequious reply.
A short while later, I heard the ghostly-soft patter of feet. Then a lad in his early teens traipsed into the room, smiling widely. He wasn’t much taller than Ani, but he was obviously not as naïve or pure-looking as Klint’s younger brother.
Trevian’s face broke into a beam when he saw the lad. “Cadence, this is Tobakus and Destined—Justin Fairwater.” Trevian Gleamstone’s voice was oddly warm and even affectionate.
Cadence swept his gaze over Tobakus and me. The lad had light blond hair, and a pair of eyes that were clear as glass one moment, and dark as rain the next. He was handsome as can be, especially given his young age. If it were not for the telltale plumes of ghost smoke swirling around his figure, one could easily mistake him for a spell caster or enchanter.
Cadence chuckled without taking his eyes off us. “Hello. And Uncle Tobakus, it’s true what they say about you not having any ghost smoke.” Cadence was aptly named. Unlike many other ghouls, his voice was euphonious, smooth and musical as a flute.
Tobakus let out a laugh; it was one of his hearty, sincere laughs that were so rare. “And have you heard of why?”
Cadence grinned. “I’m not an ignoramus. I know that you’re half ghoul, half spell caster. Your father is the spell caster, though you have no idea who he is.”
Trevian said, “Cadence, don’t be impolite.” But his chiding was gentle. Trevian continued, “Tobakus, Fairwater, this is my nephew. Unfortunately, both my brother and his mate have passed away, so Cadence has been under my care for the past five years.”
A hint of sadness shone in the boy’s eyes; but the sorrow faded as swiftly as it came. So young a child and already learning to put aside his grief.
Trevian Gleamstone sighed. “I’m happy to keep taking care of him, but there are some things that even I can’t do. Fairwater—”
I interrupted, “Please feel free to call me Justin.”
“Justin,” Trevian corrected, “are you willing to take Cadence as your apprentice in the lighter dimension?”
N.B. As you can see from the snippet above, the characters don’t know that Cadence is gender fluid yet, which is why they still refer to zir by male terms and pronouns. Later, Cadence would be okay with any pronouns, including he/him, but afterwards, Cadence would only use ze, zir, zirs, zirself.
10 Questions to ask the next person who does this tag:
The following list is inclusive of both fiction and nonfiction writing, though a few of the questions are fiction focused.
- How has your writing style shifted over the years, if it has shifted at all?
- What are some of your favorite writing philosophies and motivational quotes?
- What is the target audience for your work-in-progress?
- Which authors or works have inspired you most as a writer?
- Are there any “writing rules” you disagree with or don’t fully endorse? If so, which ones, and why?
- What are some of your writing strengths and weaknesses?
- What genres are you most drawn to reading, and are they different from the genres you like to write in? This includes nonfiction genres.
- What are your pet peeves in books, articles, or other mediums of writing?
- Is the weather or season ever important to your story? If so, how? For example, a rainstorm that makes it even harder for the hero and their friends to beat the villain. Another example is of a scene in winter: it’s snowing, but instead of finding the scene beautiful, the hero thinks back to a time where snow meant not beauty or poetry, but danger and impending doom.
- Technically, an author can write about anybody. But do you ever wish you could have some different identities, so that you can write about certain social groups with greater insight? For instance, being someone of a different gender identity, social class, religion, age, sexual orientation, ability status or neurodivergency, race, ethnicity, nationality, career, etc.
I tag everyone who wants to tackle this set of questions!