Category Archives: Writing

2010 Year In Review

Somehow it is difficult to believe that today is the last day of 2010. Time seems to fly really fast lately. Even though I don’t set up goals, I still like to look back and see what I have achieved over the period of one year. Could I have achieved more if I’d set goals and specific measurements? I don’t know. But what I do know is that I don’t limit myself by goals. There is a certain feeling of freedom and of endless opportunities when there are no measurements set in stone.

More Writing, More Reading, Less TV Watching

I am very pleased with myself because this year I wrote so much more than usual. I wrote five chapters of the book and queried some agents (bad idea! exciting time!). The query of unfinished, unpolished, unwritten novel attracted the attention of a couple prominent agents. Nothing happened after that but I concluded that I can come up with some creative plots, ideas and characters, and, yes, I can write. Not very humble, I know, but hey, two agents wanted to see my chapters.

I wrote a short story and submitted it to more than twenty magazines. It never got published but it was great just to write a complete piece.

A Random Thought (Not A Resolution) for 2011: Keep writing (maybe an e-book this time) and reading!


In 2010 I started three blogs and closed them down. After a few blogging debacles, I finally found myself in my current blog. I joined the Yakezie challenge, met quite a few great bloggers and made some friends. My blogging direction emerged, and The Kitchen Sink became a lifestyle blog with emphasis on personal finance. I became a staff writer @Beating Broke. Do I consider all of this an accomplishment? Yes, I do.

The most popular posts of The Kitchen Sink in 2010 (according to the unique page views):

1. Five Reasons To Stop Being Frugal And Get A Life
2. Beware of Men Counting Pennies
3. How A Debtless Aloysa Became Buried in Debt
4. My Life Without Christmas
5. Seperate or Joint? Mine or Yours?

A Random Thought (Not A Resolution) for 2011: Keep blogging, keep supporting my blogger friends and the Yakezie network.

Paying Off Debt

We were able to pay off $13,000 of our debt. This is a huge success because my spending habits are not the best, and we still love to take trips and go on vacation. Could it have been better? Of course. Could it have been worse? Sure. What matters in the end, we did the best we could and paid off a good chunk of debt.

A Random Thought (Not A Resolution) for 2011: Keep paying!

Healthy Food Choices

This year we improved our food shopping habits significantly. In the past we used to run to the store right after work and decide then and there what we were going to eat that night. Now, we do grocery shopping once a week and come prepared. We go to the store with a list of groceries based on a menu that we come up for a week instead of just having a vague idea of what we are going to eat.

We cook more at home, we reduced the number of out take outs from three times a week to once a week. Huge improvement.

A Random Thought (Not A Resolution) for 2011: We do need to reduce our sugar intake, eat a little bit less red meat and a little bit more fish.

Curb Those Shopping Habits

My spending habits are not the best but I was able to keep them under control this year. Most of the time. J The results speak for themselves: paid off a good chunk of debt, saved up for vacation, stayed UNDER budget during Christmas consumerist frenzy. Could have done better but a certain long and simply gorgeous pair of boots threw me off balance. Oh well… we do live only once.

A Random Thought (Not A Resolution) for 2011: Shopping my own closet a little bit more can be very helpful in 2011.

Happy New Year Everyone! Let all you dreams, hopes and wishes come true. Let all your goals and resolutions be achieved. Salute!

Are Your Characters Rooted For?

BrownEyed is a freelance writer from her home in the beautiful city of Melbourne, Australia. Originally hailing from a software background, BrownEyed took the plunge and traded her full-time job in software for a freelancer’s life in writing seven months back. Since then, she has worked on many assignments like articles, e-books, websites, and newsletters. Recently, she signed a 3-book deal as a ghostwriter. Before going to bed, BrownEyed enjoys two hours of reading non-fiction, memoirs and literary-type or YA fiction. You can find her musing and reflections here<>

Lately, I’ve been reading Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. The book is Miller’s self-inspection with quirky anecdotes and outlandish characters. While the book revolves around different aspects of Miller’s life, and tries to make his otherwise boring existence into a meaningful, interesting narrative (and in my opinion, succeeds in it too), this is not the only reason I quote it. Miller has hidden writing tips about characterisation in his book which I totally adore. At times they are in-your-face, but at other times you are on a scavenger-hunt of sorts. He contends how a character sometimes protests with the writer’s plot and how, at times, due to the character’s incessant protests the story suffers. What’s interesting is an analogy Miller draws between God and humans. What if God is the all-knowing writer and we, the characters of his story? And what if he threw hurdles in our paths and we kept protesting that the story be changed? What if, just as our characters give us a headache when they don’t comply with the plot, we are doing the same to God, our life-story creator? Why not experience life the harder way then, face challenges, take up the path less travelled, and evolve like we want our characters to? That’s a fascinating thought.

Characters in our stories will never be rooted for if they just sit on the couch and, well . . . sit on the couch. Characters won’t be cheered if they continue taking the easy way. It is true and if you don’t believe me think of your favourite book. Does not the protagonist want something? Moreover, does not the protagonist wantsomething and overcome a conflict so that they get what they want? They do, right?

Whether your reader will love your character and keep turning pages of your book or put your book down to browse through the TV channels depends on you, the writer. Chances are they will lose interest in the story because the character is too shy to participate, too scared to move ahead, too ignorant to have any goals. An excess of anything that’s preventing your characters to dive in the wild waters is to be cut off. It could be an excess of riches, or an excess of adversity. In both the cases, the character may be unmotivated to take any action. They would want to continue in their abode of sameness, where unforeseen events are best avoided. You need to shake them up, and make them embrace change. Give them a shock of their lives so that they have to get off their butts, take action and overcome a sort of conflict within or without and evolve in the process.

Even the tiny cells in our body change every six months. Every old cell in the skin and bone dies and a new one takes its place. Change, not stagnancy, is the key. Characters too must go through such a change. For this, the characters must have some goals and inner drives.

Say for example Jon has a goal to avoid social contact. He has issues with self-respect and he doesn’t want to make a fool of himself in front of a crowd. Worst, he stammers when he talks. Jon will avoid a party or a crowd at any cost. Now, put Jon in a strategic position when he has to face a crowd. How about his boss choosing him to give a presentation in another city? The boss has a last minute commitment and he can’t go. He asks Jon to cover up for him. This is known as an “inciting incident”. It causes a stir within the character. What will Jon do? How will he face the bunch of executives? Will he succeed? It is important to note that though Jon may fail at the presentation, he hasn’t failed at his life. In fact, he has been brave enough to experience a conflict. The readers will identify with Jon. They will love him and want to be there for him, depending on how he faces his failure. The readers want to see him trying at least. They want to vouch for him. Give the readers a chance to support your character. Let them sympathise!

In the end, your character must emerge as someone who’s different from what they were when they had begun. Facing the conflict changes them in some substantial way. It may be emotional, physical or both. If your story is great, it will bring about some good change. That’s the golden rule.

Food For Thought

Writing is a very personal, intimate process and sharing it with someone requires a lot of courage. You write your best piece, putting into it everything you have: your talent, your life, your dreams and your hopes. You are immensely proud of it. You send it to your family and friends. What comes back is a big surprise: someone doesn’t understand your ideas; someone thinks that the story could have been told better; someone suggests a better usage of words.

It seems no one shares your feelings of delight about your written piece ( a blog post, a short story, a chapter in your book.) You listen to everyone who has something to say – anxiety is building up, frustration is mounting – and you start to wonder if they know so much about writing and blogging, why don’t they sit down and write a blog post themselves.

Finally, after endless discussions, you start to question your writing and wonder if you are wasting your time. It is extremely difficult not to take anything that is being said about your writing personally, especially when it is coming from a family member or a close friend. These people know you the best and can hurt you the most.

As a writer and a blogger you have to acquire a very thick skin, take criticism as food for thought and analyze it. If you take it personally, it will be disturbing and damaging. It will create anxiety. It will ruin your inspiration.

I remember how while writing a short story, I came up with the expression “the ugly spirit of the conversation.” A family member read the chapter, hated the expression, and strongly recommended that I remove it from the text. My natural tendency when given advice that I don’t agree with is to become defensive and emotionally upset. Of course, immediately, I tried to convince the person that they were wrong. We had a heated argument and we both retreated with hurt feelings.

Writing is a form of art. It gives us freedom to create. Even if my expression was awkward, it was of my design. So, “the ugly spirit of the conversation” has stayed untouched for the time being.

Try to dissociate yourself from a person who is giving you his/her opinion and look at criticism as information. Take from it what you consider useful without giving up on your dream. Remember, the writing is yours. Don’t give up your ideas or your style. Don’t give up your freedom to create. Most importantly, don’t give up your ownership. Not everyone will like what you write. Not everyone will understand it. But ultimately everyone will have something to say.

How do you deal with criticism?

Agent Trouble

It happened again. This time I am not sure what I am supposed to do. Do you recall that crazy story when I emailed my query to twenty agents pitching my unfinished novel? One agent rejected, one wanted to see the first chapter and no one else answered, remember? So, I am back to the same nightmare. Two days ago I received a request from another agent. This time it is not just the first chapter, but five!

When I opened that email and read it, I was excited. I was very proud of my story and my query. My story is good enough to attract attention! My query rocks! Then I realized that I DO NOT HAVE A BOOK. My shoulders slumped. I sat down and wanted to weep. So, what do I do now? Do I get into the agitated editing state as I did before? Do I file away this precious request, finally write the book and re-query? It is a tough decision.

What are my chances of getting a request for a full manuscript? Really slim. But it is possible (or so I like to think). If I do get a request for a full, then what? Do I write a very humble and apologetic letter confessing all the idiotic mistakes I committed, all the naive dreams I had, and ask, beg, pray for time to finish the book? I can only imagine what will come in response… if anything at all. Do agents have some kind of a “stupid authors” list where they write down names of writers like me for their future reference?

I don’t know what I am going to do. I might edit the pages and email them. I might just take my time, finish the book and hope that when I re-query again, I will get some interest.

Meanwhile, I will tell you this:

1. Don’t be stupid and don’t query an agent before you actually finish your book.

2. For your own sake, finish that book!

3. Learn from someone else’s mistakes (mine!) instead of learning from your own.

On Writing and Publishing

I am a writer (aren’t we all?). I am not recognized, not published, not represented, not … you got it. I am “not.” But I do love writing (don’t we all?). I started three (!) novels and never finished them. Why? My novels bored me. I became extremely impatient. I wanted to finish my first novel within one month, my second – within three months. Finally I became more reasonable and gave myself six months to finish my third novel. As you can guess, I never finished any of them.

However, I wrote a query letter, describing an electrifying and powerful plot of my third novel, and emailed it to twenty agents. The fact that the novel was unfinished, unwritten and unedited was conveniently omitted. Three days later a very respectable agent asked me for the first chapter. That’s when it hit me. What was I thinking when I sent the query out? Obviously, I was not thinking. I was dreaming.

I feverishly edited my first chapter and emailed it to the agent. Then I panicked. What if the agent liked it and wanted a full (nonexistent) manuscript? What if I blew my only chance of becoming a published writer? You are not going to believe me but I really, really hoped that the agent wouldn’t like my first chapter. Thankfully, she didn‘t.

After this agent searching debacle, I decided to revamp my approach to writing novels. Instead of attempting to write an epic book, I wrote a short story. When it was edited numerous times and polished, and edited some more, I sent it to twenty-five literary magazines. Today I received my twentieth rejection. I am disappointed. I am sad. But I am still hopeful. Five magazines have not rejected me. Yet.

I think that one day I might post here one of my favorite excerpts from the short story I’ve written. Maybe not one but two excerpts. Maybe you will even like it.