What Moves Me: One Step Away

I’ve been trying to get closer to my emotions- I’m predominantly rational with only a tiny wisp of sentimentality so I’m very hard to be moved to tears or be driven by impulse. Not that I have not ever experienced those things, just that they happen rarely and don’t stay with me for long. And I’m starting to find it as a potential impediment to my writing. Well, perhaps not an impediment per se but something that blocks me my way to better. So for that end, I’ve been re-reading a bunch of online novels where I clearly remember I was moved and trying to capture the moment at which I was moved and figuring out the how and why. 

Today I’m going to share one such moment with all of you which I call the “One Step Away” Moment. What it actually entails was actually the reforming of one of the antagonists of the novel, when she realised she had taken the wrong turn in life and changed tact. 

So what am I finding touching about this? I think it’s the idea that one choice or one perception change is all that matters, to eventually spark a whole series of changes that create totally different life outcomes. Personally, I think that’s an especially empowering concept. Have I experienced this first hand? I guess, in some ways, yes, although in my case it’s more of a case of mistaken conception of an academia career in the before case versus a research day-time job coupled with a life-time writing ‘career’ in the after case. So it’s not a dramatic reforming or reversal in life direction in my case, more of a shift in focus. But yeah, it earned my empathy, pure and simple. 

This is my share for today. Come back next week for my December Book Discoveries. And if you have similar moments to share, let me know in the comments. 

Chinese Lore- A selection of Mythical Flora (3)

Li Tree

Physical Description:
A tree with square leaves and yellow flowers that sprouts tiny floss on their petals.


Special Properties:
The fruits it bears are fist-sized. Consuming them will greatly improve one’s memory, might even make someone attain photographic memory.


Zhi Chu

Physical Description:
A plant that looks like okra except that it has red flowers.


Special Properties:
The fruits it bears are like Chinese honey locust with a hard husk outside. Consuming them has a similar effect to drinking Red Bull or other strong energy drinks.


Du Heng

Physical Description:
A plant that looks like spinach and has a stink.


Special Properties:
Putting this grass onto a horse can make it run faster. Consuming it can also heal abnormal growths in the neck area.


Yao Grass

Physical Description:
A plant with vibrant growth of leaves, yellow leaves and fruits resembling the dodder plant.


Special Properties:
The fruits it bears would make you more attractive or likeable.


Lore:
Yan Di (a legendary figure in the prehistoric age who invented farming and herbal medicine, reputedly a minotaur) has a beautiful daughter who passed away before she was married (i.e. young). Her spirit arrived at the Gu Yao Mountain and became the Yao Grass.


Wang shu he

Physical Description:
A large lotus-like plant that is about 1.3m tall and has up to four flowers growing up of each stem.


Special Properties:
Its leaves are curled up in days and only uncurl at nights. Specifically, they only uncurl at the appearance of the moon.


Lore:
Reputedly, they are the tribute paid by a kingdom to the south of ancient China.

Reviving enthusiasm in the Work

To be honest, I don’t have full answers to the issue of reviving enthusiasm in a writing project but based on recent experience, I think the following things have helped:

  1. A writing routine- Lately, I’m keeping to a routine of working on my WIP for 5 days a week and 1 page of writing per writing day plus specific writing related tasks every day of the week 
  2. One of my writing related tasks is the compiling of what I call craft summary, a set of extensive notes on the writing craft. One of the ‘lucky finds’ of doing this is that I re-discovered the section on dealing with procrastination that I had written up for the set of How to Write a Novel online courses that I did a few years back on the edX platform. Which leads to
  3. Doing a side writing project purely for leisure 

That’s my short share for today. If anyone has other strategies, let me know via comments. 

Moonlake’s Writing Mottos (1)

What you are seeing in the picture above is my vision board that I created a few years back to reaffirm my identity as a writer. As you can see, it’s mostly uplifting phrases or writing mottos. 

However, today I want to blog about a motto that isn’t up there (yet), that I’m feeling keenly right now. The motto is: The Chase has got to be worth it. 

What does it mean in context to me and my writing? Well, I am very much a process-driven person as opposed to goal-oriented. So it’s not enough for me to have a goal dangled in front of me to push on. Nope, I need to be enjoying the actual process of doing something in order to be motivated to continue with it. So now I think you see how the motto applies to me directly: I need to be enjoying the process of writing a novel in order to continue writing it. 

So why am I feeling it keenly? You can probably guess. I’m in a low energy phase with my WIP at the moment. This was a project first conceived by me at the end of 2016 and now it’s already nearing the end of 2020. I have still not completed a first draft for it. That will be my aim for next year. 

And what am I doing about this? I’m doing another side project or pleasure project, to get me to once more feel the excitement of writing. I’m also trying to find different entry points into scene writing, thinking of trying on different methods other than my usual. I am also trying to keep myself accountable in terms of time use. At the time of writing, I’ve kept track of three weeks’ time use via an Excel file. I create a new sheet for each week and block out half an hour per row from 8:00am to 9:00pm. On each sheet I would make grey my day job hours as well as other major time commitments and then record down how I’m using the other half-hour slots around my week. 

And that’s my share for this week. See you around next week.

Broadening Horizon Reads-2020

I’ve skipped a year but my Broadening Horizon Reads are back. This year, I’ve picked a psychic thriller and a military fiction. Below are summaries of my main take-away from each of them:

Desecration by J.F. Penn 

I’ve reviewed this earlier. As a writer, I’m sure what I’ve taken away from it other than that each chapter is really about a single event. Since this is still a detective mystery, it works charmingly because it makes you feel that each chapter, you are alongside the protagonist uncovering a new clue to the mystery. As to why I even mention this as being noteworthy since most contemporary fiction share this, it’s because that’s not how I used to structure my chapters and I’ve talked all about this in a previous post. 

Operation:Jaguar by Lyman Rate

I’ve learnt some key lessons or rather have some key lessons confirmed for me through this book. In particular, it showed me the downside of the omniscient perspective and the importance of scene design. Actually, in a broad perspective, the lessons can be distilled into a single point- be conscious of your choices as a writer. 

I will be continuing my Broadening Horizon Reads in 2021. In all possibility, my BHR for next year will be the Help (literary fiction) and Watership Down (fantasy with animal protagonists). 

Remarkable Women in Ancient China (7)- Fu Shan Xiang

Who is she:

  • The first and only female Zhuang yuan (the one with the highest score who sat the examination for scholars to become government officials) in ancient China

Notable Life Events:

  • Born in 1833 in Nanjing to a scholarly family, which quickly fell into poverty after both of her parents died when she was aged 8 
  • Married at the age of 13 to her fiance engaged from before her birth but widowed at the age of 18 when her husband passed away from measles 
  • Joined the rebel army of Taiping Heavenly Kingdom after it took over the city of Nanjing as it capital (which was renamed Tianjing or the Heavenly Capital) in 1851 because her mother-in-law wanted to sell her for money after her husband’s funeral 
  • Sat the first scholar examination for women run by the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom in 1853 and won the title of Zhuang yuan
  • Became Chancelloress in the court of Yang Xiuqing, the East King (Dong Wang), where she dealt with correspondence and official papers. 
  • Responsible for many gender equality and heritage protection policies under the rule of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom
  • Personal fate unknown after the Tianjing incident, when Yang Xiuqing was killed and his whole court exterminated: apparently there are four different versions over her possible fate, only one of which is positive.  

Why is she remarkable:

  • Although she was part of the rebel army, she was still the only female Zhuang yuan record in Chinese history 
  • Despite her political achievements, it was said that she later became mistress to Yang Xiuqing (whether she was forced or not could not be ascertained) which might be a pity 

Moonlake’s thoughts on her: 

I get the sense that this is a woman who has a logical brain and can always pick the relatively best outcome for herself given the constraints and specific circumstances. 

English reference on her: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fu_Shanxiang#CITEREFMao1998

Moonlake’s Personal Collection

Today, I thought I will showcase my meagre personal collection of fantasy novels. This means I’ve truncated all the non-fantasy books out of my collection which isn’t much: two copies of Sherlock Holmes (a full collection and a volume 1 which I bought on an overseas trip to read in the hotel) and Taiko. 

Anyway, there is a very large overlap between my personal collection and Moonlake’s Top Picks. But for the sake of completeness, I will list them out one by one:

  • The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien
  • The Lord of Rings by J.R.R Tolkien
  • The Riftwar Saga (Magician, Silverthorn, A Darkness at Sethanon) by Raymond E. Feist
  • The Serpentwar Saga (Shadow of a Dark Queen, Rise of a Merchant Prince, Rage of a Demon King) by Raymond E. Feist- note that there is a 4th book to this series, Shards of a Broken Crown. I intentionally did not buy it because I felt it functions more like a tag-on book, adds nothing to the whole series, but extends it out with a bunch of ‘new’ characters. 
  • Prince of the Blood by Raymond E. Feist
  • The King’s Buccaneer by Raymond E. Feist
  • The first trilogy of Demonwars (The Demon Awakens, The Demon Spirit, The Demon Apostle) by R.A. Salvatore 
  • The Cleric Quintet by R.A. Salvatore 
  • A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden
  • Shaman’s Crossing by Robin Hobb

And that’s all for today. I will stick with short and sweet for now until I ease myself back into the routine of blogging. 

A New Writing Routine


In October I implemented a new writing routine. Each of my writing days were composed of the following 6 tasks:

  • A) Reading either published English fiction or non-fiction on writing 
  • B) Analysis of a fictional work that touched me and trying to get behind how it triggers my emotions (5 chapters) 
  • C) The self-learning writing exercise that I previously alluded to (100 words) 
  • D) Doing a summary of all the knowledge I’ve gathered on writing’s craft (1 page) 
  • E) Doing a writing exercise where I took the female protagonist of my WIP and dumped her into a bunch of romance stories (100 words) 
  • F) My WIP (1 page) 

To be honest, I was and probably still am struggling with my WIP and the 1 page initially took a bit of stretching the definition. And as it turned out, I had to quickly adapt my plans since I was told to change back to working FT until November some time. So I had to change the new writing routine yet again. Essentially, I kept tasks C, E, F as fixtures (although I cut down the minimum I need to write from 1 page to half a page) and rotated between tasks A, B and D (which I also cut down to half a page) on different days of the week. 

And it’s been an interesting side effect but apparently I need at least a one-day break for my WIP but I could easily do tasks A-E 7 days a week. 

The other major change is that instead of a 6 day week, I’m down to a 5 day writing week on the WIP. But arguably, I’m now on a full writing week schedule considering all of the six tasks. 

Anyway, that’s it in terms of the new writing routine. And the blogging holidays seemed to have worked its magic. I feel once again energised to write for this blog again. I wish everyone the same luck in re-energising whatever needs re-energising in your lives. 

A Blogging Holiday

I’ve just decided to give myself a monthly blogging holiday and since October is my birthday month, I feel like I want to make this my annual blogging holiday. 

I am currently in a low energy phase with writing and that’s across the board. It applies to my main project, my side project and blogging. So hopefully a holiday will revive my energy for this blog. Meanwhile, I’m trying out or retrying out a new method of setting daily goals for my main project. So till we meet again in November. 

Self-Learning Side Project

Lately I’ve been thinking up time use again and about side projects and self learning. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that my writer self  is whimsical by nature. So all of what I’ve been thinking about combined themselves and now I have got a new side project (to replace the one I last talked about). It will still be written in first person POV and still starring a female protagonist. But as departing from my norm for novels, I will be writing a story with no planning. Instead, the story will come from my weekly gaming sessions on roll20, of the dice-rolling roleplaying type, not PC gaming (I play 2 three-hour sessions on each of my weekends). 

So I will be posting the story up on this blog in serial form. The genre is not quite fantasy, it’s more sci-fi except that everyone is born with a special ability. The story will be written from the perspective of Sam On (which is the character I am playing). It will be about the adventures of Sam and the crew onboard the spaceship Chen Xing (which means the Morning Star), or the Xing to the crew. Sam is an impulsive “archer” who uses a bow-gun that shoots out energy projectiles. The starting crew onboard the Xing are Sam (the gunner), Aurora (mechanic assistant), Estella (the pilot) and resident mechanic Hubert (or H squared to Sam, Hue to the others). The story starts off in the Frontier, which is a place abound with opportunities for the lawful and lawless alike. 

And that’s it in terms of the sneak peek. I will put up the first serial post of the story in October.