I dream a dream

(I dream a dream… and that dream was to write a novel)

The day I wrote my story idea for this class was the day after I watched Les Miserables…

I cried a lot in the movie especially in the scene where Eponine died. (cue: imagine me bashing Marius the moment I walk out of the cinema: “I don't like him. How could he not see she loves him?”)

With a habit of rooting for the ‘third-party’ or what I called, "Second-Lead-Syndrome", I found myself writing a different story outline inspired by the romantic plot of Les Miserable; it then became my first finished novella.

The song that made me want to write my own version of the story :)

Master of the house

Before I start, I didn't adapt the whole story. Since my goal was to write a contemporary romance, I removed the other elements of the story and just focus on the romantic plot of the younger characters.

Having an original plot to base my story has its advantages, as my characters, setting and story outline were already there. The only thing I had to do was to sort of ‘modernized’ it . But this was easily said than done.

The setting and characters were the easiest parts. What I did was just to ‘Filipinonized’ their physical description (or make them looked like a Filipino, since my setting was in the Philippines). Their character descriptions like attitudes, habits, behavior were still inspired by their French counterpart.

As for the setting, changing it into a university was not just a hasty decision. I took into consideration the age of the original characters. Then I asked, if they would live today what would they be? They should be in college. I ended up writing a college romance which actually worked to my advantage since there were only few romances set in college.

On the other hand, writing a complete story outline is complicated. I wanted it to be realistic as much as possible and sticking to my modern-retelling-peg was difficult especially because I have to write in a different perspective. If you must know, Les Mis novel is written in the male romantic lead’s point of view. That was why I decided to write the story outline in a way that would make the readers root for my Main Character (which was actually just a supporting character in Les Mis).

And the best part of being the writer of my own novel was that I could change what I want and write the scenes, I thought, should have happen.

It was hard but at the same time fulfilling as I could be the master of the house or should I say novel.

On my own

One can say that the idea wasn’t original at all. But after having a whole eureka (daebak) moment, I was totally on my own. I have to think and write scenes in a different perspective. And also, I have to create my own identity as a new writer.

Unlike some of my 'classmates', I never wrote a novel (yes, I joined the #romanceclass with just story ideas). I have fears of showing and sharing it with my friends. I’m afraid that it was so bad that I would be totally discouraged to write it. After I sent my first 'assignment', I was anxious waiting for a reply. I guess I was just really lucky that it was Ms. Mina Esguerra who handled the class. She was one of the persons I would always be thankful for. Since that day, I considered her my writing mentor (whether she like it or not, haha). Her first comments encouraged me to continue writing the story and then later on, show it to readers.

The first five chapters probably was the trouble-free part of writing the novel. When my first phrase came out, words flows continuously. In this chapters, I established my characters and hinted some conflicts. I also set goals for every chapter. For the first few chapters my goal was for the reader to fell in love with my main character.

If the start was trouble free, writing the succeeding chapters was a bit complicated. This was where the difficulty of writing in first person point-of-view came in. I worried that it would be overrated and too cliché. I worried that I couldn’t express the right emotion needed on such kilig and bittersweet moments. But Ms. Mina always said, "write and write then edit later". That’s what I did. I write what I want then after awhile I reread and then edited it.

Then I didn't notice I was almost finished writing. The last chapters were easy yet complicated to write. I know what to write but I don’t how to write it. So, I decided to apply the rule again, "write and write and edit". The first version was really dramatic and an overkill. Since it was inspired by a novel/movie that made its readers/audience cried buckets of tears, I couldn't escape writing this part too dramatic and unrealistic for a YA/NA novel. But my story outline (which was the second assignment in #romanceclass) helped to bring me back on the right track again. It served as a reminder of the ending I wanted from the start. With that goal in my mind, I eventually ended my first finished novella. 

Empty chairs and Empty tables

I once said to a friend while writing this novel, "I'm not yet a writer but I'm experiencing writer's block already".

There were a lot of moments where I really want to write but all I did was kill time and stare at my blinking cursor. But there were things in this class that help me get through with it.

While rolling over my bed with earphones and iPod on shuffle, I accidentally discovered that some songs can really set up my mood to write. Music helped me get through with the emotional scenes. It’s like the lyrics explained my Main Character’s feeling. (of course, the movie’s OST was included in my playlist).

The reading links that Ms. Mina and some of my classmates shared were really helpful. It popped out in the FB group just when I needed to ask the question. It also helped that I read a lot of novels written in first person point-of-view. I try to explore the author’s way of writing the novel and then I write it with my own style.

Another helpful thing from this class was writing a story outline. I never wrote a story outline before. I have a notebook full of my fictional character names and description but I never finish writing any of it. When I found myself stock in a scene, I reread my story outline. It served as a guide of what should I write next.

What I really love the most about the set-up of this class was the deadlines. I don’t know if you’ll find it weird that deadlines for me were exciting and not exhausting as others might say. It helped me focus on my writing and fight my lazy self. It was fun beating the deadlines.


Letting go of the story was the hardest part for me. It was my first time and I’m not confident about it. It feels like I could do much better. But I wouldn’t finish the novel if I change it again and again. And one of the things I learned from this class was that I should let go of the story and let readers tell if they’ll like it or not.

This whole writing experience made me know more about 'me' as a writer. I discovered my strengths in writing as well as my weak points. I may write again. And I may write more. But just like how I ended up my novel, I must say: first times were unforgettable.

One more thing, the hardest part of writing an adaptation was probably the fun part of it too: It was to discover that the story you knew before could be retold in a very different manner and somehow make it on your own.

p.s. I would like to end this up by quoting Alex Flinn: “Write the book only you could write.”

image from: polarangie.devianart.com (https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSiMdMnl5H_rZkIgkFU1CL5p3A9-vRIzjbHAbN4_St-DZZHlM3Ihw)

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