Monday, March 02, 2015

#buqoYA: Finishing a Portrait of Jade

#buqoYA class pic (not a complete one, though) last Feb. 28, 2015. We had cupcakes!

I am a fan of Mina V. Esguerra's workshops. I've only just completed one in the past: #buqosteamyreads. I came away with two short stories, both over 5,000 words.  I tried joining a #romanceclass and a #flirtsteamyreads class but these two are still in draft and outline mode. I'm not sure when I'll finish them because a) life got in the way (yes, excuses, excuses) and b) I already missed the bus. Deadlines are deadlines, after all.

Okay, first of all, what is #buqoYA? It's an online YA (young adult) story writing class moderated by Mina V. Esguerra (with two optional face-to-face classes) sponsored by buqo (a Pinoy digital bookstore, see more below). It started last January 19 and ended last February 28 2015. The goal: finish a story, not less than 5,000 words, based on an assigned trope (trope = a significant or recurrent theme; a motif. In other words, a familiar theme that one can find in literature).

My number one reason for loving writing classes like #buqoYA: I am a working mom. Huh? What does that have to do with writing a story? It just means I'm busy. I have a regular job* and I have two young kids. I do a lot of balancing acts. I need structure to finish anything. I need to be accountable to someone, too (like Mina, for instance). I also especially like the way Mina gives me an assigned trope. It's like fate dealing me a hand (or like life, pretty much!). This kind of structure doesn't clip my creative wings. It actually gives me flight! It's narrow enough to challenge me and yet broad enough to take on any number of characters I can create. I just love this kind of assignment.

Other things that helped: detailed discussions on each trope (I really appreciated the face-to-face class where we got to interact with screenwriters, Chacha Sawit-Esguerra and Anton Santamaria), having team mates to cheer us on (my good friend, Ines Bautista-Yao was a fellow trope mate!), and (this one is new from Mina) challenges along the way to spur us to really think through our stories (and submit on time!).

The result: a story that reached more than 15,000 words. I've called it A Portrait of Jade. It's gone through a lot of draft titles already, from The Color of Complicated to Semi-Precious to, finally, A Portrait of Jade. I have my beta readers to thank: Liana, an editor I trust, Ricky, a friend who also happens to be an artist, and my fellow trope mate, Ines. With all of their input as beta readers, I think the story improved a lot (it was their input that got me editing the existing story and writing another 2,000 words).

So, how did I finish? Apart from loving my main character, Jade, I really wanted to get to the bottom of the story. I wanted to understand how such a talented artist could be so insecure. I really liked how Mina requires all of us to write about a main character who is "not ordinary." It's easy to start with a blank canvas: a Hello Kitty without a mouth, a character that anyone can insert themselves into. So, I liked how I needed to come up with someone who's both interesting and still developing. I honestly thought I wouldn't be able to finish my #buqoYA story. A fellow #buqoYA classmate and I were joking about how we, married (and older!) women, found it easier to write steamy reads versus YA. Teens are hard to figure out! But then, of course, as we wrote, we remembered that we were teens once, too. So, surprise, surprise. I ended up writing something longer than both my #buqosteamyreads stories combined. It helped that I learned stuff from Mina's other classes: 1) writing in acts and scenes (these gave my outline a fixed structure -- more of the acts, I was a bit more flexible with the scenes) and 2) reading from Mina's reading lists (they really help!). 

I'm excited to see my fellow #buqoYA classmates' stories on buqo over the summer! Congratulations to everyone! Thank you, classmates and beta readers! And thank you, Mina! I'm looking forward to finishing more stories under your classes.

*Disclosure: I work for Hand.Interactive, Inc., the company behind buqo, the Pinoy Digital Bookstore and Reading App. I also happen to be a writer. :-)


Rachelle Ayala said...

Good on you for finishing! I totally get what you mean about it being easier to write steam than innocent. Congratulations on finishing and hooray for finding your teen voice again.

Justine said...

Thanks so much, Rachelle! Looking forward to writing more stories under Mina's workshops!

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