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My (Mostly Successful) DIY Plan for August

So earlier this month I sat down and set some goals for myself for the month of August, knowing that it was going to be a busy few weeks what with the SAT and all. And, in the interest of accountability, I’m wanted to share with you the results of said plan.

Here’s what I set out to do:

12 “copy cat” exercises
2 writing prompts
2 blog posts
4 writing assignments for work
4 books (read, not written–but how awesome would it be if it were possible to bang out 4 books in a month??)

Here’s what I ended up doing:

9 “copy cat” exercises
1 writing prompt
2 blog posts (this one counts)
4 writing assignments for work
7 books (not counting the old ones that I read for the umpteenth time)

Here’s what I learned or confirmed:

1) The copy cat exercises really are very helpful. They sparked several new ideas for both novels and short stories, one of which I love so much I don’t even want to add to my current projects page for fear someone will steal it. But I’ve been obsessing over it and scribbling furiously in my excellent new notebook, and I hope to begin actually writing within the next month.

2) I hate writing prompts

3) It’s okay to drop a book that isn’t going to be as enjoyable or helpful as I hoped (especially if it cost me less than a dollar).

4) analyzing and responding to books in writing is actually really enjoyable and (I think) helpful. Not sure how to measure that helpfulness, however. I guess we’ll find out when I start writing my book.


Here’s the “copy cat” exercises that sparked the idea for my next novel:

Copied passage from “Labyrinth Lost” by Zoraida Cordova:

The second time I saw my dead aunt Rosaria, she was dancing.

Earlier that day, my mom had warned me, pressing a lot, red fingernail on the tip of my nose, “Alejandra, don’t go downstairs when the Circle arrives.”

But I was seven and asked too many questions. Every Sunday, cars piled up in our driveway, down the street, and around the corner of our old, narrow house in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Mom’s Circle usually brought cellophane-wrapped dishes and jars of dirt and tubs of brackish water that made the Hudson River look clean. This time, they carried something more.

My response:

My grandmother told me what would happen the day before my mother died. I thought she was a hysterical old woman–I was fourteen, and I thought I knew everything. I thought maybe she had Alzheimer’s or dementia or maybe she had somehow developed paranoid delusions at the age of seventy five. 

But when I told my father what Yiayia had said, he was concerned, not for his mother’s mental state, but my mother’s well-being. He rushed her to the doctor and demanded that she be examined head to toe. The doctor found nothing, obviously. My mother laughed at my father for being a worry wart, and I rolled my eyes with the singular arrogance of the young and stupid.

She was dead twelve hours later.


I’m sure the end product of the story I uncovered here will look drastically different from what I first envisioned (it’s already significantly, if not drastically, different just a few weeks later) but I think it’s going to be awesome. I learned so much from writing Sasha’s story, and that experience is hopefully going to make writing my second book go a little more smoothly. I’m still keeping a lot of it close to the chest at least until I have a few more things figured out, but I will tell you that the working title is “In the Dark of the Moon.” I might share more next month but, until then, adieu!


Published inDIY MFA

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