writing

Values-Based Decisions

One of the things I have struggled with for pretty much my whole life has been authenticity and strength of will. One reason for this is that I am very open-minded to other people, other ways of life, and other cultures… perhaps too open-minded. In many of my travels, I have encountered people and ways of life that I learned from; then, I have adopted many conflicting beliefs and values into my life as a result. This resulted in a gargantuan amount of confusion that I have been trying to sort out for the past year or so.

The other reason is that for most of my life, I have felt pressured to change myself to please other people. Even to this day, I struggle with sharing myself, my beliefs, and my opinions with others. I’m afraid that other people will laugh at me, tell me that I’m stupid, and say that I’m completely wrong and that in order to be valid, I have to switch over and agree with them/their method/their viewpoint. Therefore for most of my life, I have changed myself, my personality, and my beliefs/values to fit in and be accepted by others.

In one of my online courses, I am studying the chakras and learning how to balance them. This past week, we defined our top values, so as to balance our solar plexus chakras. I had a really hard time with this exercise, based on my past, but I came up with the following for my top values:

1) Individuality/Uniqueness

I believe strongly in the individual. I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to be different, be authentic, be themselves, and be accepted for doing so. People should be honest about their truths and share themselves vulnerably with others, so as to receive emotional support back.

2) Intelligence

I really enjoy both the learning and the application parts of knowledge. Researching, studying new information, looking deep within myself, and then growing myself. I also enjoy using the new information to do critical thinking, problem solving, and planning. Change means making a smart decision and then taking action!

3) Creativity/Fun

I am a very creative person because I play two instruments and write. Not only that, but I love coming up with creative ideas and solutions to think outside of the box.

4) Love of all people

Not only do I love all people based on their individuality and uniqueness, as well as their special skillsets and talents, but also I advocate for equal rights of all people and equality in friendships/relationships. I believe that friendship is the best kind of relationship because it is equal in definition.

Furthermore, I am a very loyal friend. I will stick by anyone who does me a kind favor, especially when I am having a very rough time. I will also pay it forward and do my best to help others whenever I can.

5) Personal Accomplishment

I have many dreams and ambitions, both personal and professional. To me, success means accomplishing my goals, achieving some measure of financial success in my businesses, and working hard with grit and endurance.

6) Health and Self-Care

I am very much into healthy living and self-care in all areas (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, and tasks/chores/responsibilities). I want to be successful in my life at the same time as taking good care of myself. Never sacrificing one for the other.

 

So the secret to having a strong will is to live completely by your values system. Every decision that you make should be made by your values.

Here are some decisions I’ve made recently:

  1. Leaving my old business to build my new business
  2. “Getting back together” with my mentor

I decided to leave my old business opportunity because I didn’t feel that it was authentic to me. Now, I can clearly see why. In that business model, uniformity was valued so that you could “duplicate” your business into a large-scale model. That meant that there was no room for individuality, uniqueness, or creativity. Not only that, but they were big on “submission” and “following the established process,” which meant that neither intelligence nor equal relationships were valued. Finally, many people who built that business to a successful level did so by sacrificing their health, as well as other important things like family and relationships. The only thing that I did value that they valued also was in the area of personal accomplishment, but even that was not entirely the same because I want to be personally accomplished specifically in the fields of writing and music.

So, leaving the business was the right decision, though it was a very hard decision to make. I now know that I am better off on my new path of online teaching and course creation. My new pathway agrees with all of my values. My offering is unique and showcases my individuality. The process involves me using both my intelligence and creativity to make my online course. I can love on all types of people with my product, as well as be personally accomplished. I can still prioritize my health and self-care as I am becoming successful, and there is nobody there to pressure me into feeling bad about that decision.

Now, clearly from my last two posts, I was struggling hard-core with leaving my mentor. I just was not happy with that decision and I didn’t know why. I actually have a really good understanding of it now though. I couldn’t, in good conscience, leave a really good person who had been there to help me during one of the lowest points in my life. Someone who had invested so much time into me and helped me completely recalibrate my life and my relationships. Someone who had poured belief into me even when nobody else did. I just couldn’t do it. It felt very disloyal and against my values.

Luckily, he and I were able to chat about what had happened. Turns out, there was a pretty large miscommunication and we were able to sort everything out to be friends. We have talked pretty much every day from the time we made that decision, and I literally feel so much better and so much more at ease.

He doesn’t know this yet, but I’m planning a way to give back to him in the future to show my loyalty and gratitude for what he has done for me and my life. I don’t have all the details sorted out yet, but I’m hoping it will make him really happy. Because that’s all I want.

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Presence

The other day, I was walking through Barnes and Noble when I felt a Spiritual Intuition. I followed the feeling, letting it guide me around the store, not sure where it was taking me. Suddenly, I found myself standing in front of the journals section.

I picked up journal after journal, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do, see, or find. At last, I found it: the Mindfulness Journal.

Intrigued, I picked it up and brought it home with me. I am so glad I did!

For some time now, I have felt unable to be present in The Moment. My mind always seems to be preoccupied with something or other, whether it’s planning for the future, thinking about the past, thinking about current issues, etc. I find that I am often too distracted, too weighed down, and too overwhelmed by life’s demands in the Big Picture, to have fun and be present in The Moment.

This might seem a bit strange, because for those of you who have known me awhile, you’ll remember that I used to be extremely present in The Moment. I used to be very present, very able to enjoy myself, very spontaneous, and very able to relax.

All of that changed once I finished school and needed to find a job. Suddenly, I had to worry about long-term and short-term finances, errands, chores, to-do lists, cleaning, and administrative work. I had to worry about being early, commuting, and traffic patterns. I had to worry about eating healthy and meal-prepping. Not to mention, I had to worry about all the components of proper self-care, including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

As someone who eternally struggled with time management and planning, I really did not like this aspect of adult life. Yet I realized that my poor time management skills and poor planning skills needed to change, because they resulted in me being eternally late for every appointment and they resulted in tasks continually falling through the cracks because I couldn’t do everything by myself.

These days, I am proud to say that I have Become a Master of Time Management. Yet in spite of that, I feel that I need to elevate my standard of mastery in this area even higher. I need to master time management even further, such that I can both take care of myself and my responsibilities, as well as relax and enjoy the moment.

This insight came directly from following the prompts in the Mindfulness Journal. The first exercise it had me do was to turn off my phone (!) and other devices (!!) for 1 hour. Then I had to write down everything I had observed.

The results were so startling!! I took a walk in my neighborhood. I noticed businesses, shops, and boutiques that I had never seen before (despite passing by them literally every day). Without my iPod on, I noticed the sounds of the birds chirping and the cars whizzing past. When I went to CVS, I actually browsed the store and saw what was there, aside from the item that I needed. I even was present while I was waiting in the checkout line.

Takeaway #1: Technology is VERY distracting. I am going to start putting my devices on airplane mode in the morning until I actually need to interact with other people.

Next, the Mindfulness Journal told me to observe and describe a moment that I was fully present. I chose to do this at my last orchestra concert.

Again, I was only “mindful” for about 1 hour for the first half of the concert. I was again very startled at the results of this experiment.

This time, I didn’t just notice things like the fact that I was extremely focused in playing my part of the music, that I was actually playing to the audience, that I was actually enjoying how the whole thing sounded overall, and that my concentration was so much better that it had reduced 98% of my playing errors. This time, I noticed and was aware every time my mind started to wander.

What did I think about in that hour? A whole wide range of topics:

  • How I didn’t have work the next day so I didn’t need to think about preparing for that.
  • The chores I needed to do this weekend.
  • Summer finances.
  • My recent “breakup.”
  • My life in Nevada (my old apartment, sunshine, warmth, my friends there, Trader Joe’s) (??? wtf lol)
  • How I “suck” at time management and how I don’t respect myself because I don’t follow my own schedules.
  • How maybe I should be more In The Moment, because I do want to be fun, creative, and carefree, and words really do matter. Do I really need to focus on body language as much??
  • If I change myself again (change myself back), then I don’t know what personality type my future husband will have.

!!! Wow. That’s all I have to say.

Takeaway #2: I don’t think I even knew that I spent so much time thinking about all these different things, but apparently things like that run through my head all the time and I don’t even notice.

No wonder my ear lost its hearing.

Anyway, after that experiment was over, I had a weekend of very deep thought and planning. I did my grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s instead of Wegman’s, and I discovered that it’s a lot less expensive and it has my fruits and nuts mixture that I realized I had missed. I tweaked my schedule to include more flexibility and relaxation time. One of the main reasons I didn’t like following my own schedules is that by nature, I’m a spontaneous person, and I don’t like feeling over-structured. I decided to have my morning and work routine be structured, but then have my evenings always be relaxed and spontaneous. I also added time on the weekends to plan for variances in my schedule in the coming week, so I can accommodate for them and not have things fall through the cracks. Finally, I added time each day where I can just think about my feelings and emotions. Maybe now, with better planning and strategy, I will be able to be more present.

Managing Negative Emotions: A Breakthrough and A Realization

Guys, today was a super important day in my life. Not only did I just have a HUGE breakthrough, but I also had a really important realization as well.

The Breakthrough
For many months now, I have been working on the way that I process and manage negative emotions. I have been trying to learn how to do it in a more effective manner. Due to my personality type (bossy controlling impatient domineering choleric, efficient, and leading), I have always had trouble maintaining mutual respect in disagreements. With my ability to be frank, direct, and to-the-point, I would immediately enter into attack mode in a disagreement and give the other person a piece of my mind whenever I felt hurt, unloved, disrespected, attacked, and/or criticized. Unfortunately, the anger and the emotional haze I felt would frequently result in very harsh feedback that would sound hurtful, unloving, disrespectful, attacking, and criticizing to the recipient. (Interestingly, I subconsciously made the other person feel as terrible as I felt in the conflict).

I always wondered why we were never taught in school how to manage negative emotions correctly. Along with “Money 101: The Skinny on Budgeting and Finances,” “How to Avoid Getting Scammed in Legal Contract Writing,” and “How to Actually Earn Money in this Sh*t Economy,” the courses titled “Loving People Through Conflict” and “Managing Negative Emotions Correctly” were noticeably absent from the curriculum. If these topics were actually taught to people in school, there would be a lot less A) alcoholics, B) drug addicts, C) people who eat their feelings, D) people who don’t eat their feelings, and E) people who don’t f*ck up all their relationships from needing to release their anger. Among other things.

Not only were we not taught how to manage negative emotions correctly in school, but it didn’t seem like anyone else knew how to do it either. Until I met my mentors in my former program, I didn’t know a single person who could actually manage their negative emotions correctly or who could love someone else through a conflict.

In my research on this subject, including some books and online courses, I have already learned some invaluable information about how to overcome these negative emotions.

Step #1: Release the emotion

For me, I have thought of several ways to do this that do not involve lashing out in anger at an actual person:

  • The best way is definitely critical thinking, if you have time to do it. This process can take anywhere from 30 minute to 2 hours depending on the complexity of the emotions involved. More often than not, it’s just not feasible to exit a conversation for that long.
  • For smaller amounts of time, depending on if you can, you can do some strength training, power walking, yoga, etc. Again, this is not always feasible due to your location and weather, as well as timing.
  • Another location-dependent one for me is playing piano. This one really helps me (but, I need a piano handy).
  • If you can take a 5-15 minute breather from the conversation, what works best is to b*tch it out by yourself. Either speak into thin air or write it down, but let the person have it (although, they will not be there to receive it).
  • For on-the-spot treatment, I’ve found the best way is to carry squishy desk ornaments in my purse. It feels GREAT to dig my nails into them when I’m pissed off. If I’m at home, I then start using my Chinese stress balls to relax. This can be done mid-conversation if necessary. Then I take some deep breaths, work to calm my facial muscles, calm my throat, and try to have empathy.

Step #2: Understand the Emotion

  • Again, critical thinking is by far the best. I would marry it if I could.
  • Have index cards handy that have your patterns laid out in front of you. Instead of becoming angry, demanding, and controlling next, what do you really want? What need are you trying to have met? How else can you meet it?

For me, when I become angry, demanding, and controlling, usually it’s because I feel unloved and I need emotional attention. I can meet that need myself by 1) talking to God and the Universe, or 2) writing in this blog (which do you think I picked today? lol).

  • Just think about it. Why are you so upset right now? What is this triggering? What does this remind you of from your past?

 

Today, I am very proud of myself for what I accomplished. I was having a conversation over text where I became upset. Because I was at home, I practiced piano and released my anger. As I was practicing, I started thinking my way through the emotion. I started asking myself, “Ok. WHY am I so upset right now? What is this reminding me of?”

And then I had my answer. I responded to the person in a very calm and respectful way. Then I filled my own love tank by writing in this blog 🙂

My whole processing time for the negative emotions and the response was 30 minutes. Progress over perfection! This small victory only added on to my really important realization earlier in the day.

The Realization
Not only did I not know how to process and manage my negative emotions in the context of conflict situations, but also I would have the same problem when I would deal with very strong emotions by myself in dealing with anxiety and panic.

As mentioned above, my primary need to fill my love tank is emotional attention. What I would do in the past was just dump my emotional load on anybody and everybody who would listen, with no warning or no consideration for what they were doing. All I could think about was that I FELT horrible, and I just needed someone else to listen to me so that I would feel better.

Understandably, most people became so tired of this that they stopped talking to me and stopped offering to give me emotional support. I drew the conclusion that all people sucked, didn’t want to give emotional support, and didn’t value vulnerability and authenticity in relationships.

The issue with this was not that I wanted to share myself with others. It was not that I was being vulnerable and authentic. It was just that I was sharing myself with no consideration for others, therefore making others feel like I was using them for emotional attention.

I have since learned not to use people as an emotional dumping ground. Now, I see emotional sharing as a negative deposit in the relationship, because it is something that I want to gain from the relationship instead of something that I am giving to the relationship. The only way to have a good relationship is to give more than you receive back. I have begun investing more of myself in my relationships in general to really show people that I care about them. The emotional sharing conversation itself has to be built in a mutual manner to the point where the timing is right and the other person will be receptive to hearing about the emotional pain. This is the right way to go about emotional sharing and support.

Not only that, but I have realized that most people actually DO value vulnerability and authenticity in a relationship. In fact, most people PREFER their friends and family to be vulnerable and authentic. It’s just, the sharing has to be done in the right way for it to work.

I no longer have to stay silent on issues that bother me or hurt me so as not to offend or disrespect anybody. I no longer have to feel isolated and alone. I no longer have to pretend that I’m ok when I’m totally not. I am SO GLAD that I had this realization.

Align Your Purpose(s)

In my last post, Become a Master of Time Management, I discussed how to organize your schedule for maximum efficiency. Not only that, but I gave advice on how to incorporate your “sub-goals,” or daily habits, into your schedule in order to work towards achieving your life goals. But what do you do when you have multiple life goals that all seem to conflict and collide with each other? How do you move forward in all areas when you seemingly need 28 hours in a day instead of 24? Read on for some tips on how to Align Your Purpose(s).

For me personally, I have always been double-, triple-, even quadruple- and quintuple-minded. As a musician, writer, and business entrepreneur, I have always had many goals and ambitions for myself and my life. In addition to my professional goals, I also wanted to prioritize the more common and widespread goals of living a long life and being a responsible person. As a result of this, I have always found it hard to focus on and prioritize just one thing.  So confusing! No wonder I had issues fitting everything into the same day.

To make matters even more confusing, when I first started thinking about goals and time management, I was trapped in a standard 9-5 corporate job which actually ended up taking over my entire life. I therefore had no time or energy left over to actually work on my goals at all. In spite of this, I stayed at my job because “I needed to earn money to pay my bills so that I could work on my passions, goals, and dreams.”

Unfortunately at that time, I did not understand the vital flaw in this logic. Maybe I did understand it on a subconscious level, but that didn’t mean that I actually knew what to do to fix it. The result was increasing frustration, irritation, and helplessness with my life on the surface and not understanding what was causing it.

Step #1: Prioritize Your Values

The first thing I did solve this problem was to compare my ideal list of values (how I would like to spend my time) with my actual values (the way that I was actually spending my time). My lists looked like this:

My ideal values:

  1. Living a long life
  2. Music
  3. Writing
  4. Business
  5. Job
  6. Housework

My actual values:

  1. Job
  2. Living a long life
  3. Business
  4. Housework
  5. Music
  6. Writing

Writing these lists, as you can see, was pretty jarring. It woke me up to the fact that I was, for the most part, prioritizing all the “responsible” aspects of life and was not really delving into either of my passions. No wonder I felt so frustrated and unfulfilled! I decided to do something about it.

Step #2: Quit Your Day Job

I know, this decision is not for everyone. That being said, it was definitely the right decision for me. I realized that if I wanted to live a life of true authenticity, I needed to make my music and writing more of a priority. So I rid myself of the largest time-sucker of all: the 9-5 job. Once I quit my job, I decided to earn money as a professional musician and as a business entrepreneur.

Once I quit my job, I felt much more comfortable and secure in the fact that the life that I was living was far more in alignment with my values than it had ever been previously. That being said, I still struggled with music goals vs business goals, and I hardly ever had time to write.

What was causing this problem? Each category had its own goals, sub-goals, and daily habits, there turned out to be not enough hours in the day to prioritize everything at the same time. Even though I tried my best to streamline, combine, and shuffle things around, I still felt too overwhelmed to fully focus on everything at the same time because I felt like I was way too overly extended to be successful in everything.

For example, I would make some success with my music in piano, but then my viola would suffer. Or I would prioritize my viola and my piano would suffer. Or I would have it on track with both instruments, but then I would never go to the gym. Or I would have the gym on track at the same time as the housework, but not do any music. Or I would have the gym and both instruments on track but neglect the housework. That’s not even mentioning my writing or my business. Sheesh.

See? Too many variables. No good. All it did was make me upset with myself for not being able to consistently follow through on anything because I had too many things going on at the same time. Because of this, I still felt deeply unsettled and unsatisfied. While I had made a large amount of progress, I had not yet achieved perfection (lol).

Step #3: Establish Mutual Purpose

Next, I decided to really look into each category and see if they were all truly important to me. Then I asked myself why they were so important to me and what was my purpose that was driving me towards completing goals in each area.

When I answered these questions, I still said that yes, all of these things are f*cking important. Clearly. Even though I still wished that I could hire a personal assistant and/or marry a hot husband who did all the housework, so that *I* didn’t have to be the one to do it, it was still important to me that someone did it.

Housework aside, what was really interesting when I completed this step was that I actually did manage to establish a mutual purpose behind my goals of living a long life, music, writing, and business.

My Mutual Purpose:

  1. I want to overcome to become. I want to overcome the negative, toxic, and scarcity experiences from my past to become a happy, healthy, and wholesome person who lives a life of abundance.
  2. I want to use my knowledge and experience to help others overcome negativity and toxicity and also live happy, healthy, and wholesome lives. I want to break others out of scarcity mindset and help them also live lives of abundance.

I was both relieved and pleased to discover that I was actually using three different channels to achieve the same mutual purpose. However, this still did not solve my problem of not having enough hours in the day and not being able to achieve long-term consistency in any category.

Step #4: The One Thing

While I had established that all of my goals were noble and that they all did serve the same mutual purpose, I had to take a good, hard look at each category to determine the order and the level of impact for each. Which one category allowed me to facilitate success in the other categories? Which category helped me the most in my own overcoming and healing process? Which category helped me the most in my quest to help others?

Another way of thinking about it is like a row of dominoes. Which domino is the most powerful that, if you could knock it down, it would result in the others also falling down? This is what I set out to find.

When I completed this step, the results were pretty shocking. I realized that while in the past I had achieved great success in my overcoming and healing process through my writing, I actually was now currently achieving better results with my personal growth through my business opportunity. While I still enjoyed writing, I realized that it no longer served me to write novels the way that it did in the past. Thus I decided to put novel writing on-hold for the time being and instead write about personal growth in this blog. See what I did there?

For my music, I realized that while I am currently making a difference with my students and with my performances, I will be able to make even more of an impact when I have the funding available to create my own Grand Performance Academy. In starting my own music academy, I will have control of the environment and culture, so that I can ensure that I am only teaching students (and parents) with the right attitude and mindset of abundance. Therefore, in order to become more selective with my music, I realized that I needed to first focus on building my business. The change and movement that I will make in the music industry will therefore be a byproduct of the results of building my business.

As a result, I decided to focus and concentrate first and foremost on building my business. Not only does building my business help me with my first goal of overcoming to become, but it also helps me in my quest to help others overcome to become. Not only that, but down the line I can make an even greater impact and change in the music industry once I have the finances in place to be able to do so.

Therefore, my order of priorities has now shifted to the following:

  1. Living a long life
  2. Business
  3. Music
  4. Writing
  5. Housework

Which therefore made it possible to streamline all of my daily habits and fit them into a 24-hour day, actually even less-than. Ironically, since making the decision to focus more on my business, I have since spent more time playing my instruments, going to music concerts, and writing. I call that a triple-minded success!

New Publication

Hi everyone! I am very pleased to announce that my scientific article has been accepted for publication by the International Journal of Earth Sciences. Check it out here:

Porous Media of the Red River Formation, Williston Basin, North Dakota: A Possible Sedimentary Enhanced Geothermal System
      -International Journal of Earth Sciences (2016)
The final publication is available at Springer via http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00531-016-1398-9.

I am very pleased that my research has been published in such a prestigious journal. It took a lot of work and a lot of revision to do it, but in the end, I succeeded! I am very proud of how well the final article turned out. I can only hope that my article will be useful to other scientists who are completing similar research!

Now that both halves of my master’s thesis have been independently published (the other half was published by the Geothermal Resources Council in 2015), I want to switch gears and focus on writing my new-adult fiction novels.

I feel a calling in life to help other people. My goal in writing new-adult fiction is to talk about struggles that other people face, but that they are too ashamed to talk about. There is no shame in anybody’s struggles, regardless of whether or not they are “big” or “small,” or regardless of what those struggles even are to begin with. I want people who are struggling and suffering to know that they are not alone out there, that other people go through similar situations as they are, and that there is a way out of those situations to the other side.

I can’t wait until my novels are published. I know that I can impact a great many lives with my writing and that my writing can help to make other people’s lives better. I am still putting the final touches on my first novel, but stay ‘tuned for more updates about that!

Submissions

Hello everyone! It has been a crazy few months, but let me fill you in on all the exciting things I’ve been up to.

First, I completed a second round of revisions for my scientific article. I just finished these last week. I’m not sure how many rounds of revisions there will be before my article gets published, but IJES is very prestigious and thus there might be more revisions to complete in the future.

That being said, the revisions I made in this last round resulted in a very cohesive piece. The article now reads very well, being both concise and informative. So hopefully this set of revisions will be the last before publication, but we will see!

After I submitted my article revisions, I started working again on polishing up my novel. I actually found a new place to submit my novel unsolicited! From my preliminary research, the publisher seems to offer good contracts to their authors, so I figure it’s worth a shot!

Before I submit, I am going through the novel again to make sure that everything is on-point. I have to say, I am really digging this intro with the prologue! It’s funny how when you put something away for a few months and then work on it again, you can see it more clearly with fresh eyes for what it is. This opening works very well!

Last night I polished up the introductory frame, so now I’m working more on the middle section. From the part I read last night, the work I had done a few months ago really paid off! You would never have guessed that the main character had sounded flat at one point. Now she has a really strong voice and a lot of attitude (lol).

Anyway, with the long weekend ahead I am going to work on my novel as much as possible. I will submit very soon! I foresee lots of coffee in my future as I prepare my manuscript. 😀

More Articles; More Revisions

After I finished my scientific article revisions, I decided to write an article for Cosmo. This article is a short piece (about 800 words) on the subject of body image issues. I submitted the article to them last Tuesday, so keep your fingers crossed for me! Hopefully it will appear in a future issue 🙂

Once I was done with the Cosmo article, I started working again on polishing up my novel. I am still fixing up the middle section of it so that it’s less flat when written from the first-person perspective. Another thing that I’m doing is organizing the whole section so that it has improved flow and clarity. This is proving to be more difficult than I realized.

Much of the difficulty lies in the fact that there’s a lot of flashbacks necessary for the middle section to make sense to the reader. I had been incorporating the flashbacks as I went, as the info became pertinent to the story. The result was a layering effect in which the narrative delved deeper and deeper into the emotions of the main character. This is exactly what I was going for. This sort of emotional layering is very powerful for readers, as it provides them with an extra level of rawness and intensity that really helps them to identify with the main character.

For instance, imagine that you are telling a story to your best friend. In the middle of your story, he or she interrupts you and asks you to clarify something. You tell the back-story to your best friend, which helps him or her to understand your current story and helps him or her to understand your feelings. This is exactly the effect I have in my novel.

While this is a cool effect to have in a narrative, one drawback of it is that the time travel with the flashbacks can seem kind of jumbled and confusing to the reader. I had contemplated changing the organization of the middle section so that it would be chronological; this would eliminate the confusion from the time-traveling flashbacks. That being said, doing so would totally kill the layering effect that I have created. Also, making it chronological might actually be more confusing to the reader, because the reader wouldn’t understand why those details are even being discussed in the first place.

The other thing that I had considered doing was taking the info out and putting it into prequel(s). However, doing so would also eliminate the layering effect. In addition, it would drastically reduce my word count, which I can’t afford to do.

At 41,000 words, my novel is currently too short to be published. I need to add more to it to make it longer (a novel is typically no less than 50,000 words). It is actually kind of funny that I have this problem, because I have literally always had the opposite problem. My work has always been too long, which means that I have had to spend time streamlining it so that it becomes shorter. For instance, my Cosmo article started out being 1800 words; then I had to cut it down to just 800 words to meet the word limit. I’m really not used to adding material because my piece is too short to meet the requirements.

But, I will see what I can do. Maybe by adding more information here and there, I can simultaneously  increase the flow/transition of the novel to make the flashbacking more clear and natural to the reader.

Article Revisions

Hi everyone! Sorry to have gone MIA for the past few months. I have been working diligently on my revisions for my scientific article that will be published in the IJES special geothermal edition that is due out in 2017.

The good news is, I’m done (yay!). Well, almost. Tomorrow I need to read through everything one last time before I submit. Also, I need to update my annotated list of corrections with the most current info.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with scientific article revisions, here is what happens. After the article is submitted to the journal, two or three reviewers edit the article. They then provide you with a list of corrections that you must fix within the article. In addition, you must provide an annotated list of corrections that addresses every issue raised by the reviewers; here, you must list either your correction or your rebuttal, if applicable.

So, scientific revisions can take a long time. I decided to tackle the revisions by going through the list of corrections methodically, item by item, and then updating the annotated list as I went along. Some things were quick fixes (such as changes in semantics/word choice, deleting sections, etc.), but others took much longer (such as figuring out how to make a new map when your student edition of the software has already expired).

That last one was fun. Luckily, I remembered that ESRI has an online version of GIS on their website. The information I needed to include in the map was easily found on the online version, so I just did the map that way. The downfall of doing the map online is that you have no control over editing the symbols or colors in the legend or in the map itself (#GISCertNerdProblems). Unfortunately, this was a choropleth map that used varying shades of color to symbolize different categories… yet the online version decided to make the colors into shades of yellow. Yellow! Also, it chose some funky pastel purple color to represent electrical lines. I had to work some Photoshop magic and enlist the help of others with better Photoshop skills than me to help me out of this one. At least the end result shows very nice shades of red for the choropleth part and a solid green color for the power lines.

Anyway, aside from the map SNAFU, the rest of the revisions went pretty smoothly. The revisions that took the longest had to do with fixing issues with the actual content, rather than fixing syntax issues. Once I made my way through the list of revisions, I then went back and edited the article as a manuscript. This took me a bit more time to figure out, because I ended up having to combine two sections together for improved clarity. Finally though I did figure it out and it turned out great!

That’s about it for now. Once I submit my revised article, then I can go back to working on polishing up my novel. I figured out that I can get a lot of writing done if I bring my Surface to work and use my lunch break to write, so I’m going to continue to do that and make more progress!

Opening Scene

After many revisions, I have finally settled on an opening scene for my novel that works. Yay!!!

The first thing I did was to answer all of the agent’s questions in the very first page. This was very difficult; it took me a long time to figure out how to do this correctly. It was very difficult because I liked the way that I had presented the answers to these questions in my earlier draft (meaning, I had become attached to the language and the phrasing that I had used in my earlier draft). When I subsequently moved up these sections to occur earlier in the story, the language and phrasing no longer worked and I needed to change most of it. This was a bummer, but I finally got the revision to work with new language and phrasing that I like.

After I reworked the content of the opening scene, I had some guinea pigs read it and give me feedback. Even though I had answered all of the agent’s pertinent questions upfront, my guinea pigs still thought that the main character was a nutcase. Geez, this problem was a tough nut to crack! (lol)

It turns out, a large part of the problem was that I had used the wrong syntax for indicating that the main character was thinking to herself. Because I had used quotation marks instead of italics, my readers thought incorrectly that my character was talking to herself out loud. No wonder everyone thought that she was a nutcase! She was seemingly talking to herself out loud and yelling at herself out loud in every other paragraph…

That part was an easy fix, but it did not solve the problem entirely. There was also a line at the end that set the wrong tone for the rest of the novel. People read it and thought that my novel would be like a slasher/revenge sort of novel, which is not what I had intended at all.

I revised that section and had people reread it until it gave off the correct tone. What I ended up doing was having the narrator talk about something that the main character did not yet understand, telling the reader about the problem vaguely without actually giving any concrete details. My goal for this part was to be mysterious in a good way, to intrigue the reader so that he or she wants to read more and wants to find out what happens next.

Finally, what really helped to fix the opening was adding a prologue. The prologue I added is short, sweet, and in all italics. It is a flashback to the middle section of the novel, detailing an abusive scene. The prologue really helped set an ominous tone for the rest of the novel, as well as provided more sympathy toward the main character.

So that’s it for the opening scene! Up next: fixing the middle section.

When I referenced the middle section to write the prologue, I realized that my middle section is very flat. The reason for this is that I have a tense change into the first person. In order to properly engage the reader while writing in the first person, the writing must be extra dramatic and over the top. So, this is what I will be tackling next.

Room For Improvement

Last week, I received my literary agent’s feedback on my query letter and on my first five pages. For those of you who don’t remember, I took a Writer’s Digest webinar last month about the querying process; as part of this webinar, my assigned literary agent critiqued my query letter and my sample pages with suggestions on how I can improve.

My agent gave me many comments. I was overwhelmed and shocked by what she said. I needed to take some time to absorb her comments before writing about them and before forming a plan of action. At first I took what she said very personally, but I realize now that this is just an opportunity to improve my writing.

I mentioned before that my novel is written in “frame” style. In other words, there is a large backstory in the middle that is “framed” by a dark romance that occurs in the present time. During the webinar, my agent told me that according to standard protocol, I needed to start my sample pages from the very beginning of the novel. Thus, I had followed her instructions and had done exactly that.

However, as a result of this, the agent became VERY frustrated with my novel. She wanted me to reveal ALL of the important details upfront, instead of “hiding” them from the reader. She had many questions about the motives of my main character; she wanted many of these questions to be answered right away in the very first page.

I did not know how to precede after she gave me this suggestion, because the answers to her questions are very complex and simply cannot be explained in one page (let alone in the very FIRST page). The main character with the extremely complicated past cannot just reveal ALL of her personal details upfront, because the reader needs that understanding of her past events before the answers to the questions will make sense. Plus, not knowing ALL of the details upfront keeps the reader engaged in the mystery and in the surprise of the story as it unfolds.

Therefore, the way that the novel is currently set up is that the questions are slowly answered throughout the novel, once sufficient explanation of past events has occurred. This way, the reader can properly sympathize with the main character before the darkest details are revealed.

In spite of this, without enough explanation up front, the main character comes across completely wrong to the reader. The main character has extremely odd behavior at the beginning of the novel because she is an abuse victim; thus she is working on overcoming that abuse and acts strangely.

However, not knowing any of this, the agent read my sample pages and came to the conclusion that my main character is a nutcase.

Clearly, I need to make some changes so that the main character does not come across as a complete psycho. I’m flirting with the idea of adding a short prologue that contains a flashback to the abuse. I also need to add in more foreshadowing in the first few pages to help the main character seem more frail and fragile to the reader. Hopefully, this will help solve the problem.

Also, I need to more clearly articulate the structure of the novel in my query letter so that the agent will have a better understanding of how the story will unfold after the first five pages. I need to clearly specify that this novel is written in “frame” style and I also need to spoil the mystery for the agent. I had thought before that the book summery that is included in the query letter is the same one that will be written on the back of the book or on the inside jacket, but that is wrong. Unlike the reader, the agent needs the story to be spoiled with more details of what actually happens in the novel, so that he or she can properly understand the structure of the story and think about how it might unfold later.

So, I have lots of things to improve with my novel. Time to get started!