Expectations vs Goals

Holly Lisle was a huge source of inspiration for me in college when I was saving up for my dream of writing. Here is one of the posts she made that stuck with me:

You embrace expectations when you:
* imagine that you’ll get glowing letters from editors,
* dream that you’ll sell your first novel in a cut-throat auction
between your two most cherished publishing houses for an ungodly
amount of money,
* write the fantasy review of your yet-unwritten novel that uses
the words “ground-breaking,” “brilliant,” and “mind-blowing genius”
all in the same sentence,
* and when, lying in bed staring at the ceiling at night, you’re
picking out the wardrobe for you Pulitzer acceptance speech.

You set goals when you:
* decide you’re going to finish the first draft of your first
novel in one year,
* when you determine that you’ll revise the whole thing in less
than one year,
* select five appropriate publishers to whom you will submit,
* and when you nail the card to the wall that says “I will keep
submitting stories until I have accumulated a thousand rejection

It’s important to separate the illusion of writer as rock star from the reality of what it means to write every day and go back and do the same thing tomorrow. Live in reality! Humble yourself, and you will be a better writer for it.


Writing as refuge

I’ve become nostalgic as the end of my first year of residency approaches. This post is from a journal entry during medical school. Since it is the weekend before an exam, my mind, naturally, has turned towards writing. I plotted the first book of a series that I hope to someday actually WRITE. [This would be the Rim Chronicles, bane/love of my life.]

So far, it looks like it may be three books, but there are so many side-stories that I may end up having a collection of short stories of prologues and side adventures.

In terms of writing landscape, I take Tolkien as a role model: a writer who meticulously researched, who had a historical basis for his work and painted his landscapes with eyelash-delicate, if sometimes plodding, detail. Writing makes me feel like I’m in a different “time zone.” It’s a form of meditation, where all the dirtiness of daily life gets wrung out. Here’s a Tiny Buddha article about how writing teaches us to be mindful, sensitive, and gentle with ourselves. It’s a beautiful place, my true refuge.

All Stories Are the Same

Here’s an interesting article from the Atlantic by John Yorke on the structure of storytelling. He boils narrative art down to: going on quests, defeating monsters, the three-act telling.

I love the line: “One either tells all stories according to a pattern or none at all. If storytelling does have a universal shape, this has to be self-evident.” Yorke goes on to defend the need for writers to be grounded in theory before taking on more experimental writing. He quotes Eugene Delacroix: “First learn to be a craftsman; it won’t keep you from being a genius.”


Paper Menagerie


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Cruising around on the Internet as I am wont to do, I ran across Ken Liu’s story,“Paper Menagerie.” It’s plainly written, there’s little to no character development, and the setting is suburban, literally, but by the end, I was in tears. You have to understand what growing up as a “foreigner” or an “outsider,” no matter how hard you try to fit in, is like. The criticism of the literary merits of this story are legitimate, but completely overpowered by the issues of identity, belonging, and unique magic. It’s the story of a lost boy coming home, and for me, as an Asian-American, it resonates. I hope that it winning the three major awards in fantasy is a reflection of the growing acceptance of multicultural writing.

Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish

One of the things I love about doing what I do is that I have the ability to connect so closely with you guys and speak on the topics that matter to you. Yesterday, a fellow writer shared an article from The Guardian, For me traditional publishing means poverty. But self-publish? No way. She wanted my […]


Inaugural post!

Here, you can expect to read about interesting bits of research I gather while working on my writing. I’ll also post about my experiences in the world of self-publishing, books I’m reading (there will be few while I’m in residency), and things I find interesting or entertaining.

Happy reading!

Joy's writing website