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Category Archives: Writing Journey

The 3 Kinds Of Stories You Should Tell

Stories are powerful. They have the ability to motivate, inspire, and drive people into action. Whether they are works of fiction or factual accounts, stories can impact and change lives. They are more than just forms of entertainment. They are not just updates on what’s happening around us and across our borders. Stories can and will change the world. So why then are we not harnessing its power? Why are we not telling stories that matter? Why are we holding back—afraid to tell the stories we own?

Whether fact or fiction—written or spoken—stories should be told. It doesn’t matter how exciting or how uneventful they may be. Every story has the potential to leave a mark—an imprint in the world and the lives within it. So if you’re not telling stories—withholding your tales–it is time you do. Don’t worry, you don’t have to write a novel. You most certainly don’t need to take up a course in journalism. You can simply start with these three kinds of stories in any form you’re comfortable with—the three kinds of stories that can make a difference.

#1 Stories That Make People THINK

This is my favourite kind of story as I love thinking. Whether its an article that brings up a question on ethics, a tale from Sherlock Holmes that has me wondering about the culprit, or a personal account that requires a solution, every story that makes me think allows me to examine my own thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and goals. It creates the opportunity for introspection—the chance to understand myself better, to find reason and meaning, and to choose who I want to become.

The fact that I like this kind of stories reflect in the kind of stories I tell. Some of my fictional works and personal sharings are open-ended and without conclusion. Why? Because I like giving my readers an opportunity to stretch their creative muscles—to imagine beyond my words and to determine an answer that is uniquely theirs. You see, nobody can tell you how to think. But a story that makes you think… has the power to change and shape your thoughts.

#2 Stories That Are TRUE

True stories are based on experience. Stories that are written from experience will resonate with anyone and everyone who has undergone the same. The fastest way to connect with anyone is to share something personal. And the easiest way to help someone is to share an experience—a journey you took and how you survived, or a journey you’re on and how you’re surviving.

With true stories, you don’t need a perfect ending. True stories can be incomplete—unfinished. Sometimes, people just need to know they’re not alone. It’s not about the answer you can provide, but the understanding you have to offer. Such stories can bridge gaps, give hope, fan passion, push boundaries, and inspire lives. They speak directly to the heart—the very thing that makes us human.

#3 Stories That Serve A PURPOSE

One of the most powerful stories you can tell is a story with a purpose—a story with a personal reason. Why? Because—though not wrong—a story without a purpose often falls short. It doesn’t leave an impact. And it falls short mainly because your audience can tell. They know when you’re creating for the sake of creating—it is content churned out for the sake of having content. Your audience can sense that, especially if they’ve been following you for awhile.

I’ll be honest, I have written stories for the sake of fulfilling promises. And when I publish these stories, I’ve noticed that my readers aren’t as engaged as when they read stories that were written with a reason. I don’t blame them for being disconnected—I was disconnected myself. But if I truly want a story to be impactful, it has to be told with a reason. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with stories without a purpose. The question is, is that the only kind of stories that you want to tell?

I believe that everyone has more than one story within them—more than one story that can influence and shape the world around them. You may not see the ripples or feel the reverb of your tales, but the moment you tell them, you’ve left an imprint somewhere, somehow, and in someone. So start telling stories that can make a difference. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, to be vulnerable, and to strive for a purpose. Start wielding the power that is already in your hands—the power that resides within you.

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Posted by on August 16, 2018 in Writing Journey

 

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How To Balance Passion & Work

One of the biggest, and probably most difficult, decision we have to make in life is the choice between surviving and pursuing our passion. Which is more important—doing the things that we love at a cost or work to pay the bills and perhaps live a more comfortable life? It always seems to be one or the other. And, we often believe that those who get to do what they love and make a living from it are the blessed minority. But here’s what I’ve come to realised… there’s actually a way to do both. It won’t require much except for a little courage and a change in mindset.

Let’s start with our mindset. As passionate individuals, we often want to live our passion—solely our passion—nothing more, nothing less. We have the biggest dreams and the wildest goals. We aim for the stars. And, there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s something we should keep doing. Heck I do it all the time and perhaps too often. But, if all we strive for is what we idealise—refusing to try anything new—our dreams will remain as dreams.

Speaking from personal experience, I’ve spent way too many years focused on the dream of becoming a full-time author. It has been all I’ve ever wanted that it tunneled my vision—building walls around my other abilities. Because that dream was my sole focus, I shied away from trying new things, exploring new industries, and stepping outside of my comfort zone in fear of ‘jeopardizing’ my dream. But, after a few uncomfortable experiences, I started to see what the world had to offer. I found opportunities that could actually help me achieve my dreams. Yes, they may not be about writing or directly related to my passion, but they can and will bring me one step closer toward being a better writer as a whole. I still want to be a full-time author, but I’ve chosen not to box myself. I’ve made a decision—a change in mindset—to try, fail, and seize everything the world throws my way.

Now, of course, if you’re an introvert like me who has been boxed for far too long, doing something new is daunting. Choosing to embrace new environments is scary. What if you say the wrong words? What if you fail to meet expectations? As many opportunities as there are to advance yourself, there are equal or greater opportunities to fail. So, we make excuses. Despite knowing what a great stepping stone it may be, we give ourselves a reason not to do it. What a waste, isn’t it? Here’s the thing, we actually don’t need a lot of courage to break those walls. Sometimes, all we need to do… is close our eyes and say ‘yes’.

I’m a socially awkward individual who has trouble connecting and meeting new people. But I’ve learned to say ‘yes’ to social events because I know it will do me good. I still hate it—I do not like mingling—but if it’s a good opportunity to advance myself, I say ‘yes’. I may regret my decision later on—diving blindly into an unknown environment—but I say ‘yes’ first and worry about the outcome later. After all, we cannot predict what will happen in life. But I believe that every open door presents an opportunity to go further and do greater things. And with all these doors, it only takes one step—a pinch of courage—to step through them.

If you’re in this stage of your life where you’re struggling to balance between your passion and work, perhaps it’s time to be bold and break the walls you’ve built around you. The odds of you achieving your dream is higher when you do more. Confining yourself at the notion of protecting your dreams doesn’t preserve your passion. Instead, it’s hiding your gifts and abilities from the world. So be brave fellow dreamer. Start learning new things and exploring new ideas. Start challenging yourself for the sake of your awesome dream.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2018 in Writing Journey

 

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So, What’s Next?

Recently, I’ve been asked this particular question by almost everyone I meet, “What’s next? Are you writing another book?” So to answer everyone else, who may have this question in mind, I thought to share my response here.

The next, after The Slave Prince, is the Raindrops trilogy.

Or, at least, I hope it remains as a trilogy and not become a series. Why? Because trilogies and series aren’t really my thing. I’ve discovered, through writing Book 2, that writing a trilogy is quite a challenge for me. As Book 1 was completed–sent to beta readers–in April 2016, a handful of story facts have gotten lost in time. I’ve misspelled some of the not-so-important character names, I’ve confused certain plot lines, and… I’ve forgotten how some of the places actually looked like. I had to reread Book 1 before writing Book 2. And yet, even after doing so, I’m still making mistakes!

When I think about it, a trilogy is just a really long book. It shouldn’t be too difficult to remember what I, myself, have concocted. Alas, I’m better suited writing standalones of 60k to 70k words–my sweet spot. And funnily enough, I’ve only just learned this fun fact about myself. However, I am going to complete this trilogy. With Book 1 done, how can I not write Book 2? It would be silly to stop a story when I’m this far in. I just have to tough it out and get it done–you have no idea how many times I’ve coaxed myself to keep going. Why did I even think writing a trilogy was a good idea? This writer, right here, had no idea what she had gotten herself into.

With that said, I plan to pitch Book 1 to agents once I finish the first draft of Book 2–it should be done by this year despite the turtle pace. I also plan to spend a good amount of time next year rewriting Book 2. Honestly, that is about it with my plans. All I can do as a writer is to keep writing–to keep running the race. I don’t know what will happen along the way. I might not find a publisher even after I’ve completed the entire trilogy. Or, I may land a publishing deal next year. Anything or nothing can happen. But, I do know what’s next.

For me, it will always be the next word, the next sentence, the next chapter, and the next book. It’ll always be one story after another. Despite how tiring it may be or how unmotivated I sometimes feel, I’ll keep writing. Stopping midway in this journey is, and never will be, an option.

PS, if you’re curious what Raindrops Book 1 is about, let’s just say it follows the tale of a teenage king in search of his father who many believe to be dead. With the magic in raindrops, this youthful king leaves home to travel to other realms. From the hazardous trip behind enemy lines to the festive East Asian-esque Meihua; from the kingdom hovering above the clouds to the military-driven Bevattna; from the heterogeneous society of a tunneled realm to his duel with the heir of Tentazoa, every step in his adventure uncovers a gem of his past, present, and future. And in one foresight, this young king learns the daunting fate of his own realm. That… is all I can say. Hopefully, you’ll get to read this book one day.

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2018 in Writing Journey

 

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5 Ways To Become A Bad Writer

Why do we strive to be a good writer, when we can be a bad one? Here are five things for you to work on if you want to become a bad writer in no time!

#1 Don’t Write, Just Talk About It

Go ahead, talk about the stories you want to write but don’t actually write them. Tell everyone you want to write a book–that you have this fabulous idea– but don’t bother with taking it one step further. Don’t actually sit down and try to devise a good plot. Don’t turn on your laptop for anything other than non-writing activities. Buy a fancy, overpriced notebook but leave its pages blank. Don’t write, just talk about writing!

#2 Always Blame Your Lack Of Talent

You suck because you have no talent. You’re not gifted with words, thus you’re a bad writer. So why bother trying, am I right? If your story needs improvement, it’s probably your lack of talent. If your characters are dull, it’s probably your lack of talent. If your world-building is flat, it’s probably your lack of talent. You don’t have talent, thus you’re a bad writer. The easiest way to excuse your shortcomings is…you know it… your lack of talent!

#3 Hate On Your Critics

These people don’t deserve you or your work. After all, their mission in life is to critique you and everything you do. So, in return, you should hate them . Discredit everything they’ve done because they say your story is boring. Curse at them because they criticise your writing. Take it one step further and hunt them down, because the only way you can change their minds is to make them actually dislike you.

#4 Give Up Because It’s Taking Too Long

Wow, it’s been a year since you started writing and you haven’t accomplished anything. What are you doing? Clearly, writing isn’t for you. You should stop doing it all together. Go and find something else to do. But, if that new thing is taking too long for you to see success, make sure to stop doing it too. After all, time is of the essence! You need to be gratified like… right now! So if you don’t see immediate success, it’s a waste of time.

#5 Play It Safe

Do you have a crazy idea that may ruffle some feathers? Don’t you dare write it! Always play it safe–always write to please the masses. After all, you’re not writing for you. Your goal in life is to write stories that makes everyone but yourself happy. Your words are not yours. Your words are dictated by what your readers want to read! So lest you offend them with unconventional characters and controversial plots, it’s better to stick to what they ask of you.

There you have it–five easy ways to become a bad writer! But just in case some of you think I’m actually serious, I should clarify that I’m being sarcastic. No, I don’t want you to become a bad writer. In fact, I want you to be the best writer you can be! I want you to believe in yourself–yes, you do have talent. I want you to actually start writing, because your story is actually worth telling. I want you to be kind to your critics, because criticism will help you grow. I want you to be patient–to keep persevering because the journey brings more fulfillment than the end. And, last but not least, I want you to write without restraints.

Don’t let these five points dictate your future, your dreams, and your passion. Rather, stay clear of them because, by default, you have the ability to be an amazing writer! Remember, the only person that has the power to sabotage your greatest achievements is yourself.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2018 in Writing Journey

 

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This Story Begins In 2005 [#TRUESTORY]

I scrolled through my blog recently and realised that I don’t share enough personal stories. I do address certain topics based on experience, but nothing from, ‘hey, I was once an annoying kid,’ to, ‘wow, I said the cringiest things on Facebook.’ So today, I thought, let me share a #truestory.

This story begins in 2005. It was during those formative years in secondary school that I began exploring other forms of writing aside from short stories. I would write scripts for my school’s drama competitions, and I would write poetry–a whole lot of poetry. I thought I wasn’t good at short stories because I never won any writing competitions. So, I tried poetry instead. But even then–churning out both story-based and self-reflective pieces–I knew nothing about the rules and the mechanics of this art. I just wrote. And whenever I wrote, I would submit my poems to a local newspaper in hopes of being featured in their Wednesday student column.

Then 2007 rolled around. It was my final year in secondary school and I experienced the loss of two family members in a single week. My maternal grandfather passed away a few days prior to my paternal aunt. I wasn’t close to either of them as I can’t speak mandarin or hokkien–two of the few Chinese dialects in Malaysia. And, I only saw them once a year during Chinese New Year. So the loss was a strange kind of loss. I was sad–I cried when I heard about my grandfather, while I was unexpectedly called out from school–but… I didn’t know why.

At their funerals, of which I had to travel from one state to another just a few days apart, I wrote two poems. I used to carry a notebook around for when inspiration strikes, and conveniently, I had my notebook with me that week. Of course, I wouldn’t say their deaths were ‘inspiring’, but it led me to writing a piece titled, ‘Death’ and a piece titled, ‘If’. They were rather morbid pieces if I could say so myself. But it seems… I write better when in unpredictable and uncomfortable situations.

Shortly after those events, I returned to school and my carefree teenage life. Since I had two new poems, I submitted both of them to the same local newspaper. I didn’t expect anything, but twice, my friends hollered at me–after having flipped through their daily newspapers. They came into class saying, “Jeyna, you’re in the newspaper!” You see, my school allowed students a paid subscription to the daily newspaper. These students would receive their copies every morning. I wasn’t one of these students–my dad would buy the newspaper himself–and thus, I had no idea if my work was published. I had to be told, and on both occasions, the announcement from my friends and teachers were awesome surprises. Alas, it only happened twice. There was no third time, despite the dozens of poems I submitted.

Eleven years later, on May 30th 2018–coincidentally a Wednesday–I received a Facebook message from a friend with a snapshot of a different, but also local, newspaper. I knew I did an email interview. I even chose a handful of pictures to send to the journalist. But, I had no idea when the piece would be out. Being Facebook message–oh, how technology has advanced–brought back that same feeling when I discovered I was featured in 2007. This time however, almost a decade later, it wasn’t just my name. It was an almost full-page spread with my picture. Eleven years later… “Jeyna, you’re in the newspaper!”

If you’ve actually made it this far into my story, or if you follow me on Facebook and Twitter and have seen my status update itself, you might have noticed something. It took me eleven years. Eleven… long… years. Not one year, not three years, not even five years to be somewhat recognised, but eleven years. And I say ‘somewhat recognised’ because it’s only the first step. It’s a small accomplishment in comparison to the dream of having my book made into a movie. But, it’s a success nonetheless–one worth celebrating, just like the time my poems were published.

Now, if you don’t mind me asking, how many of you have been at your craft for almost a decade? If you raised your hand, let me applaud you for your tenacity and passion. Perhaps it’ll take you longer to see the fruits of your labour, but you will see it one day. You already have the drive to keep going and you shouldn’t stop. Don’t waste the years of blood, sweat, and tears. It is all worth it. Your dream is worth it. Your passion is worth it. Your story is worth it.

On the flip side, how many of you have been at your craft for less than a decade? If you’re thinking of giving up, don’t you dare! I cannot say you will achieve something in eleven years, but you shouldn’t give up just because ‘nothing’ is happening. Something is always happening when you invest in your talent. The only ‘nothing’, I dare say, is that ‘nothing’ is impossible. It might take you eleven years–it might even take you more, or perhaps less than eleven years–but nothing is impossible. Every step you take toward your dream is the first step toward something big. It’s just the start! And just like those of us, who have been chasing after the stars for many years, your dream, passion, and story are worth it–every muddy road, narrow trail, and arduous climb. After all, every path you take will eventually lead you somewhere.

This is a true story. This is my story. But this can be your story, too.

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2018 in Writing Journey

 

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Who Is Thom?

Thom was raised in a royal household. His parents were the King and Queen of Alpenwhist. For the first fifteen years of his life, Thom had everything he needed. He was granted most of what he wanted. And, he lacked (almost) nothing. He lived as a prince in a grand royal palace. He rode only stallions and dueled with the finest blades. He studied with the best scholars and ate from plates of gold. That was the life of a prince. And as a prince, he did his royal duties and acted princely whenever he made a public appearance. It was second nature to him–being a prince was all Thom knew… until he wasn’t.

Who is Thom? Is he a prince or is he not? Does he have royal blood or is he just an impostor? Who is Thom, really? Thom… is us.

He’s us when we question our identities, when we’ve lost sight of who we are, and when we have no confidence in our abilities. He’s us when we’re unsure of our decisions, when we’re afraid of the future, and when we can’t find a name to call ourselves. He’s us beyond the princely vest, farm boy hat, and beggar cloak. He’s us in, perhaps, a few phases of our lives, when we’re discouraged, doubtful, and hesitant. There’s a Thom in every one of us, and there’s us in the Thom from Alpenwhist.

Though his adventure may be different from ours, what he goes through isn’t foreign. He may not be from this world, but his emotions are reflective of our own. Thom is not a stranger nor is he a friend, but he is certainly someone we know.

Who is Thom? The better question would be, who are we?

As The Slave Prince hits bookshelves next Tuesday, I hope many of you are able to answer that question. I hope you know who you are, what your passion is, and how you want to live your life. But if you don’t know who you are, don’t lose hope. If Thom can discover his identity in such a confusing and troubling time of his life, so can you. He isn’t just a work of fiction–he’s hope that all of us, no matter where we come from and what we’re going through, have a name. We have a name not coined or dictated by others, but a name that truly reflects our inmost being even in the darkest of times. We have an identity we can be proud of–an identity uniquely our own. And when we truly find ourselves, we won’t lose sight again.

Let’s find ourselves, stay true to who we are, and face the unknowns in life unafraid and unashamed. Let’s be the heroes of our own stories, as it is… after all… our birthright.

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2018 in Writing Journey

 

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My Last Letter To Thom

Dear Thom,

Can you believe it? It has been over five years since we started–five years of telling and retelling, imagining and reimagining–and in a little over a month’s time, your story will finally be released to the world. It took us awhile, huh? Time sure flies. You’re even an adult now, and boy do we need to catch up!

So, how’s life in Daysprings? Is Daysprings still the warm and welcoming village I last remembered it to be? How’s Haratio and the girls? Tiger is all grown-up now–is she more like Seanna or Catry? How are the Eklaysians? Oh, and do you still write to Mika? Did you manage to find out who his uncle is? Even though we worked on the book last year, we never really talked about these things. I didn’t even ask about your love life! Yes, I should know. And if you don’t intend to tell me, I’ll just ask her instead. But, all these surface questions aside, how are you…really?

I’m fine–if you’re curious about me. Life in my world isn’t as magical or as adventurous as yours. I have a pretty interesting day job, which can get rather busy at times. As it eats most of my creativity, I’ve not spoken to Robb in months–he seems to be OK with that. I do plan to write the second installment of his story this year though–after your story reaches the masses. And that will be soon… very soon. Wow, isn’t that a little nerve-wrecking?

Honestly, I’m kind of nervous about what people will say about the work we’ve created. So far, the early reviewers have been kind. But… it seems not many are willing to give your tale a shot. It’s unconventional after all. Still, I think we can both agree that the number of books sold isn’t as important as the people who read your story. So let’s just hope that The Slave Prince touches lives instead. That is why we wrote it in the first place, right? And no matter what happens, we’ve done good.

With May 29th around the corner, it saddens me that our journey will soon come to an end. Even though we’ll still be friends, we won’t be seeing much of each other any longer. No more late night conversations. No more coffee breaks. We’ll part ways–recalling our history only when we gaze into a starry night sky. If it is possible, I don’t want us to be like that. But only time will tell if we can continue to work on your story. And until the unknown future comes to past, I wish you all the best in life.

May you go on more great adventures, Thom. May magic beckon you to live more heroic tales. May you never forget who you are. And may you always believe in the power within you. You’re a prince, Thom. A true prince–the Majestas Regia will always remind you of your story.

It has been a pleasure, meeting, knowing, and working with you, Thom. Let’s not forget what we’ve created together. And let’s continue to do great things until the very end.

Yours forever, Jeyna.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2018 in Writing Journey

 

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