Our Writing Processes: Amber Chen (with a side of tea)

If you were expecting publishing tea, look away, because I meant actual tea. I drink copious amounts of tea when writing, and when not writing, so I’ve paired each stage of my writing process with a lovely tea blend from my current TWG tea box 🙂

Growing the Plot Bunnies

Paired with Alexandria Tea: “A dreamy reminder of Arabian nights, this tea mixture of green teas is subtly blended with mint and Mediterranean species”

Every story starts with an idea, and I probably have enough ideas stashed up to rival 1001 Arabian nights because they multiply like the rampantly breeding bunnies you see above. In order to decide on which idea(s) to pursue, I have to note them down somewhere as and when they pop into my mind – and that’s why I have my own Discord server! Yes, a Discord server for me, myself and I. In the server, I have a channel for recording all the plot bunnies I come up with, so there’s a massive list of loglines. For those who are unfamiliar with loglines, it’s something that we use to pitch screenplays – a one sentence pitch that basically summarises the gist of the story! I find these particularly useful because they help me figure out if my story idea has focus, and whether or not it’s high concept. If I can’t boil down my plot idea into a sentence, then I’ll either have to let it steep further (haha tea reference!) or ditch it altogether. For ideas that I think have potential, I then set up new channels for each of them where I can slowly expand the concept whenever I feel like it!

The Outline

Paired with Singapore Breakfast Tea: “A tantalising elixir to inspire new beginnings, this noble blend of green tea, black tea, rich vanilla and rare spices yields a complex flavour with a sweet and lingering aftertaste.”

When I want to officially start a new WIP, I throw together an “outline package”. I would consider myself a plantser, half plotter and half pantser, that that shows in my outlining process. This “package” contains two things: a query, and a bullet point synopsis.

Starting every WIP by writing a query for it is a tip that I’ve heard from many writer friends, and it works! Queries don’t only have to be for submission to agents – it’s also a useful tool to inform you about whether or not your WIP has a good hook and stakes, which will be totally necessary when you’re trying to sell your book in future. I also throw said “queries” at my writing group to get views on whether people think my concept is good enough or if there are things that need to be tweaked wrt the stakes etc.

Once I greenlight the query, I move on to a quick synopsis document! This is nothing like the 1-2 page synopses you need to submit to agents/editors. Like I said, I’m a plantser, so I don’t outline every single beat of the story from the get-go. What this little synopsis includes are only key plot points – minimally the start, middle and end. They are like checkpoints to give me some direction to work towards, but once I start writing, the journey to get to those checkpoints can end up meandering in all sorts of strange directions!

WRITE THAT BOOK!!!

Paired with Miraculous Mandarin Tea: “A melange of warm, rich black tea blended with the fresh tartness of orchard fruits and notes of delicate sweetness. A miraculous and youthful tea of delight”

Personally, I find drafting the actual book easier than some of the other parts of my writing process (like outlining and editing). When I have a good grasp of the concept and checkpoints in my head, the words flow pretty quickly. For drafting, I’m still using boring ‘ol Microsoft Word to churn out no-frills documents. I’ve been experimenting with Scrivener, but so far it’s not really been working out for me, especially when it comes to editing because you can’t track changes the way you can in Word.

Drafting is not without its challenges. I do get writer’s block sometimes, when I realise that I can’t reach that checkpoint I had in mind, or in order to get there I end up introducing massive plot holes and deus ex machinas. When that happens, I can shelve a book for months to work on something else before coming back to it, because it’s just SO TIRING to keep prodding at plot holes. Taking time out helps me gather new inspiration to untangle old knots! But because of this, I usually have 2-3 WIPs stewing at the same time, so while I hit pause on one book, I never hit pause on writing.

Those Damned Edits

Paired with Darjeeling Okayti Prestige: “Evocative of the fresh fragrance of morning dew on tender shoots of tea, this magical autumn flush Darjeeling yields a beautiful, crisp and bright yellow infusion”

Yes I hate editing. I have said this before and I’ll shout it again. But I will slog through this necessary evil. Once the book is drafted, I shoot it off to a few betas (no more than 3-4, because too many cooks spoil the broth), and gather their feedback. While waiting for them to get back, I put together a reverse outline (I talked about this a bit more in this post) based on my existing draft. This outline is far more detailed than the one I started out with – it’s a full beat-by-beat document, with colour-coded plot arcs. Once I’ve reviewed beta feedback and decided on the changes to be made, I track all these changes in the reverse outline doc and then it’s time to start work! Cue hours and hours of pain and agony. BUT IT IS WORTH IT! When the heavy lifting is done, the book is finally complete.

The End

Paired with Pomme Prestige Tea: “A whiff of temptation, a forbidden fancy… Alluring and fragrant apples yield their immortal aroma to this tangy and delightful black tea. A tea for forever after.”

(But it’s never really the end is it? Because the plot bunnies strike again!)

Amber is a PitchWars ’20 alum and a Wattpad Star. One of her Wattpad novels, The Cutting Edge, has recently been adapted for television and is streaming on meWATCH. She is represented by Anne Perry at The Ki Agency.

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3 thoughts on “Our Writing Processes: Amber Chen (with a side of tea)

  1. My kindred spirit! Editing is the worst part of the writing process for me too. Maybe it’s because I pants my way through everything, so by the time I get to the rewrites, there are just too many plot holes to plug and character descriptions to correct. Anyway, thanks for sharing your process!

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    1. It truly is! I am now wading through plot holes and crying about how I need to rewrite so many parts lol

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  2. I love how you’ve paired each step with tea– I’m in love with both coffee and tea, so my beverage of choice depends on what time of day or night I’m writing. I hadn’t heard of writing a query before the story; that’s interesting, and I can see how it’s helpful to clearly focus your stakes and hook. Lots of great advice– thank you for sharing!

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