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Category Archives: Writing Journey

I’m Not Done Yet! Or am I?


Am I done with this novel? Is it good enough? When can I say I’m truly done?

As a writer, I always ask myself these questions. But the fact is, one can never say a novel is truly done. There’s no benchmark. There’s no checklist. There’s just me… and my novel. I’m the judge of when it’s complete. And yet, I cannot judge. I wonder if the extra rounds of editing would make my book worse. I oscillate between editing again or leaving it as it is. I don’t know what to do! Help! The uncertainty drives me crazy. But recently, I’ve come to a realisation.

Whenever I edit my novels, I mostly dislike what I read. I’m rarely happy with the text before me. I always think my story sucks – that I’m not a good writer – and I know I’m not alone. But in the midst of that, there’ll be a moment in time – a second of contentment – that hits me like an unforeseen kiss. It’s rare. It doesn’t happen as frequently as I hope it would. And it only transpires after I’ve grown tired with my work. This emotion comes after my self-loathing is replaced with fatigue.

Have you ever felt worn out from all the editing? Have you told yourself, “I’m done. I’m not touching this again. I’ve done all I can”? This brief moment of unexpected tranquility is how I know I’m done. Because… it only sweeps past me after my final round of editing. And by ‘final’, I mean I decided it would be the ‘final round’ before even starting work. How convenient, right?

You see, subconsciously, we know when we’re done. We can sense it. It’s an innate ability. Like how animals can sense an earthquake, it’s a gut feeling we writers have. But the two things holding us back – driving us to spend years on a single book – are doubt and fear. We doubt we have what it takes. We fear we’re not good enough. So we keep at it, on the same piece of writing, not realising that by working on the same thing over and over again, we’re not growing. We’ve boxed ourselves. We’re unable to learn by exploring other stories within us. We squeeze our creativity, then question why we’re not good enough. And when that moment of contentment hits – when we’ve come to believe we’ve given our all – we quickly brush it aside. We disregard the prompt that’s telling us to stop. And we repeat the vicious cycle of wondering, questioning, and not knowing when it’s done.

I, personally, don’t believe we should work on a single piece of work for years. I know I say this with The Slave Prince being a novel I worked on for 3 years, but I wrote plenty of other work during those 3 years too. And by honing my craft, I’m able to better The Slave Prince as I find my own style and voice. Am I done with The Slave Prince now? Yes. Very done. I’ve given my all. And there’s only so much I can do where I am, right now.

Moving forward, I’m ready to dive into new worlds. I’m ready to challenge my creativity and imagination. And I know I cannot do that if I’m stuck on the same book. Don’t let the question of ‘done’ stop you from moving forward. Because in reality, we’re never done. We will always grow, and we need to let ourselves grow.

So take it from me. The next time a wave of surprising satisfaction washes up your shore, after your ‘final round’ of editing, ask yourself these:

Am I done with this novel? Yes. Is it good enough? No. When can I say I’m truly done? Never.

You don’t have to publish your novel tomorrow. But you most certainly need to start writing something new. Only then can you free yourself from a curse, so cruel, it robs you of your much needed ‘happily ever after’.

The End.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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My Existence As A Writer

How often does life corner you to think about your existence?

For the most part of my life, I knew I wanted to write. Writing is my passion – it’s my calling. Writing is my purpose – the only thing I have that truly defines me. But how much of my writing has made a difference? How much of my writing has inspired, provoked, and brought about change? Well, to be honest, not much.

In this unexpected season of my life – where change has forced me to question – I realised I’m not writing enough to make a difference. Or at least, I’m not using my words enough to do so. I write for fun, for leisure, to pay the bills, and all for what? What I’m doing brings no fulfillment. And I cannot imagine living the next 50 years as such.

Hence, I’ve decided to make a couple of changes in my life and on this blog. And for the first time ever, I’m going to stop a project. You see, I’m the kind of person who endeavours to finish every race. But when I begin questioning the race – dreading to put my best foot forward – I believe I should stop. It’s not quitting. It’s realigning why I do what I do. Thus, I’m calling an end to Beneath The Crimson Star. This blog series, as cool and fun as it might sound, serves no purpose. The story exists to challenge my imagination, but I find no drive in that reason alone. So in replacement, I intend to write stories that matter.

Moving forward, I want to share more on my writing journey while publishing thought-provoking stories you’d enjoy. I’ve monitored the ‘likes’ and I’m able to gauge your general interest. In no way I intend to make this blog about me alone. I want it to be about you too, and I plan on giving you my best. So if you have any questions – in regards to whatever – ask away. If my words can help you realise your full potential, while I uncover mine, I’m more than happy to share them with you.

Wow. Apologies. This post reads rather personal

Honestly, I never thought I would question my existence. I always believed I knew, until I took a step back and found myself in a meaningless monotony. This brief existential crisis has made me more self-aware. It brought me to a conclusion that I want to write with a purpose – that I want my words to have meaning 7 days a week. Writing to pay the bills isn’t how I want to live this life. And I hope that in this paradigm shift, you would continue to stand with me. I don’t know where life will take me from this point onward, but I’m hoping I’ll be at a place where I can make a difference… and truly live.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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The 7 Stages of ‘Writing’

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Or should I say, The 7 Stages of ‘What did I get myself into?’

Those who think writing a novel is a single phase operation, I believe it is my duty to inform you that it isn’t. Oh, how I wish it was. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Alas, this arduous truth should not be withheld. Hence, I’ve decided to write this post and share my 7 stages of writing.

Disclaimer: My process isn’t benched at 7. Often times I go beyond when working on a novel. Sometimes I go under when working on a short story. But as my standard guide, 7 is a wonderful number. Do note that these stages do not include planning, and most certainly excludes professional editing.

1. Word Vomit

Mean Girls, anyone? My first stage of writing is vomiting everything in my head onto a word document. It’s just me, getting the story out, while trying to be as creative as I can. However, creative writing isn’t my goal. This stage is about telling, or should I say ‘reporting’, the story as it is. I do build the universe, I do develop the characters, but only as much as it is required to complete the story. Then, once my head is figuratively empty, I move to stage 2.

2. Rewrite

This is where I get creative. I research, google, and expand my imagination to paint vivid worlds and mold believable characters. I endeavour to be as ‘literary’ as I can, one paragraph at a time. Yes, one paragraph at a time – I rewrite every single paragraph. And yes, I detest this stage. If I could skip it, I gladly would. But I can’t, of course. Nobody wants to read word vomit.

3. Line Edit

Once I’ve heaved a sigh of relief, after completing stage 2, it’s time for line editing. I read aloud, test the pacing, check for errors, and split lengthy sentences. I scour for problematic areas. And as an extra step, I send the manuscript to beta readers.

4. Rewrite… Again? Again.

There’ll be areas in my writing that bug me excessively. So in this phase, I rewrite those paragraphs, dialogues, and sentences that rob me of my sleep. I also catch repetitive words in each chapter and find alternatives for them. And while doing all of that, I request feedback from my beta readers.

5. Line Edit… Again? Again.

Since I rewrote, I need to re-line edit. It’s back to reading aloud, testing the flow and pacing, and making minor changes if required.

6. Proofing

Before proofing, I usually take a break. And by break, I mean working on another story (either a new one or an existing one – it doesn’t matter). I try my best to clean my palate of the current work, and only return to it a month or so later. Fingers-crossed, my brain wouldn’t default to autocorrect upon my proofing. Though, let’s be honest, there’ll be mistakes I’ll overlook. Hence, stage 7.

7. Audio Proofing

Depending on the work, I sometimes run audio proofing twice using different voices. I alternate between tssreader.com and speechninja.co. Audio proofing helps me catch what I’ve missed, while testing the tempo as if read by a reader. It’s not a full proof stage in cleaning a manuscript, but it does call out errors. Despite it taking a while, it’s worth the time.

So, there you have it – my 7 stages.

Like I said above, this is just a guide for me to follow. The Slave Prince has gone over 10 stages, with multiple rewrites. Trails of the Wind has been audio proofed 3 times. Whereas most of my stories below a 1.5k word count are only rewritten once.

Also, the stages differ from author to author. I know of authors whose stage 1 is carefully executed requiring fewer rewrites after, and of those who’ve lost count of their rounds. It depends on the individual. But, we can all agree on one thing: no story should be published straight from the head.

If you’re new to writing, I hope this doesn’t scare you. Draw strength from your passion and dream, and you’ll find yourself doing your very best. Writing may seem laborious, but if it’s what you love, you will do it. Heck, you have to do it. It’s your life! And you’ll embrace whatever it encompasses.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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How To Tell An Author They Suck

howtotellanauthortheysuck

You don’t.

Unless you’re their writing coach/ language professor/ English teacher – someone professionally hired – you don’t have the right to tell an author they suck. You might think you do, but you don’t.

“Did someone just tell you you suck?” you ask.

“No. This isn’t a passive-aggressive rant.”

Personally, I’ve not encountered anyone who has told me I ‘suck’. But of late, I’ve noticed a lack of respect for authors. And this disrespect isn’t coming from readers, but from authors themselves.

“What? From fellow authors?”

“Yes. It is unfortunately so.”

It seems it’s now considered kind to tell someone they have no talent. It seems it’s now acceptable to feed one’s pride by trampling over someone else. There is no intention to help, only the goal to hurt and a platform to gloat. And we’re doing it to each other.

Authors are fickle human beings. We oscillate between crippling self-doubt and obnoxious pride. Some of us try our best to stay humble when tempted to boast. But some of us think it’s OK to free the beast and let it wreak havoc. What we often fail to see is that this monstrosity loves to attack the weak. And when targeted at fellow authors, it destroys dreams – it magnifies self-doubt and builds fear. It imposes beliefs and revokes creativity. It tears a soul apart for the sake of building its master. And as a cherry on top of the cake, it burns bridges… forever.

Frankly, this beast isn’t something we should be proud of – it’s not an emotion we should even feed. So from one author to another, can I ask you keep this beast locked inside?

“Well, this beast is quite difficult to cage.”

“I agree.”

Pride is a tricky emotion to handle. But despite it tough to tame, it can evolve… like a Pokemon. If we increase our self-confidence – if we learn to trust in our own capabilities – pride would be a memory of the past.

“But isn’t it the same thing – pride and confidence?”

“No. There’s a difference.”

Those with self-confidence find no need to boast about their accomplishments. They don’t step into a ‘coaching’ role when not asked. And they certainly don’t think they’re better than anyone else. Self-confidence is being aware you aren’t the best, but believing you can be the best you.

Those with pride however, will tell the world of all they’ve done. They’ll see the need to correct someone, and think they’re doing it out of favour. They certainly believe they’re better than many others in terms of skill and talent. And whenever there’s an opportunity, they’ll state it.

“How then do we build self-confidence without crossing the line?”

“We starve pride.”

I know, being humble is easier said than done. I struggle with it too. I want people to know I’ve accomplished something. I want the world to recognise my work. But whenever pride tempts me to gloat, I ignore it. I starve its need to shine. When I read a fellow author’s work, I don’t tell the author what they should do and change. Instead, I encourage them to keep writing. I’m not their editor. I’m not their teacher. I have no right to act as though I am. I also know that when they keep writing, they’ll get better. They’ll improve and find their own voice. And if I’m confident in myself, I won’t be afraid if they outshine me – even if they do, I’ll celebrate.

“But what if I’m just trying to help?”

“There is, of course, a difference between giving constructive criticism and being demeaning.”

To know if you’re feeding your pride, ask yourself this: do I feel ‘clever’?

If your words have the intent to make a fellow author admire you, then it’s pride. Because if you truly want to help someone, there’s no subconscious need to feel important. Your goal is to assist, not to fortify your own strength. But like I said, taming pride is – and will always be – a challenge. The only way to beat it is to make a conscious effort to starve it.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel good about ourselves. We should learn to love ourselves and be proud of what we’ve accomplished. But let’s not do it at the expense of others. Let’s not destroy hopes and dreams in the process. Let’s learn to be confident in who we are and what we can do, without stepping on someone else.

“So wait, how do I actually tell someone they cannot write?”

“To think we’re better than someone is to forget we started somewhere too.”

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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Write To Challenge

writetochallenge

Over the years, I’ve come to realise that writing isn’t just writing. In order to become a better writer, I’ve got to do more than writing.

You see, writing isn’t just about writing my niche genre, building familiar worlds, and creating characters I can relate to. Yes, it’s good to have a label under my name. And it’s natural for me to keep building it – heck, I should build it. I should master the art of my choice. But in order to become a stronger writer, I have to expand. I have to grow. Just like a kingdom, once established doesn’t remain stagnant, I need to push the boundaries of my world. But… how do I do that? Do I change my writing style and publish novels in different genres? No, I don’t. I simply experience – experience what I’ve never experienced.

To grow as a writer, I need to write beyond the comforts of my pigeonhole. I need to write outside of what I’m accustomed to. It will make me extremely uncomfortable, yes. I will struggle to convey my thoughts. And potentially, I’ll create disastrous pieces. But in order for me to become better, I need to take the leap of faith. I need to explore the vast universe and adapt to its varying nature. I may not be a master of all realms, but I have to experience them. And who knows? I might just write a decent piece.

There’s a reason why writing challenges and writing prompts exist. They don’t merely serve as a filler for when you don’t know what to write. These challenges, as they are called, challenge a writer to write something different. Despite not being good at a particular genre, world, or character, taking the challenge helps one get better. It is the stepping outside of a comfort zone that carves a writer. It is the embracing of something new that broadens the mind.

Personally, I’ve endeavoured to write in other genres, embrace different worlds, and toy with characters. I’ve written and will continue to write sci-fi, romance, mystery, and other genres outside of fantasy. I’ll mould different worlds with different cultures, beliefs, and eras. And I’ll create protagonists whom I’ll dislike more than the antagonist itself. Even if I don’t excel in these challenges – even if I don’t write novels through them – I’ll write anyway. I’ll write to challenge. I’ll write to challenge myself, my imagination, my skill, and my potential. I’ll write to challenge, because I know it has helped me in many ways. And I’ll write to challenge you, to write to challenge too.

I’m not just saying this on a whim. Through past experiences, I’ve grown from the challenges I put upon myself. From Dr. Slubgob’s Letters, a novella about a demon and his quest for the truth, to The Clubhouse, a blog series with characters I disassociate from; I’ve learned to construct deeper worlds and fuller personas. I’m still not good in either arenas – I don’t think I’ll ever master them. But, I have improved. And with a long way to go in my writing journey, I’ll continue to challenge myself.

This 2017, my writing goal is simple: write to challenge. As this year revs its engine, I encourage you to adopt this goal too. In fact, I encourage you to adopt this goal in general. It isn’t just for writing, but for anything – for areas you want to see growth. And If you stick through it, no matter the obstacles, you’ll come out a finer jewel than before.

Also, it can be quite fun.

quote-the-further-you-get-away-from-yourself-the-more-challenging-it-is-not-to-be-in-your-benedict-cumberbatch-6-89-37

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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Dream & Doubt

dreamanddoubt

I don’t question my dream. I don’t question the amount of work I put into achieving my dream. I don’t question why I dream. And I certainly don’t question if my dream is worth it.

However, I do question my skill – my talent – and if I really have what it takes to do it. Am I made for this industry? Are my works of any value? Am I making a difference? Do I disappoint my readers? Can I actually produce something that people love? Is there a hint of potential in me? Why am I… not good enough?

I would start a round of editing and go, “Hey, this writing isn’t so bad,” only to think, “This sucks,” moments later. I would crack my fingers, ready for a fruitful day of rewriting, only to sigh at sunset having not achieved my goal. Out of all the days spent at the keyboard, 90% end with disappointment. And don’t get me started on rereads of older works. Boy, if I had soil beneath my feet, I’d bury my head in a jiffy.

So let’s be honest – I’ve never once been assured of my writing.

I’ve never been confident with what I put on the table. I cannot say my works are worth reading, because there’s always something wrong – something I cannot fix. I can give my all. I can drain my emotions. But I cannot be 100% sure I’ve done a good job. And if you’re finding this relatable, then I’ve achieved the goal of this post.

You’re not alone.

It’s nice to know that, huh? Still, it doesn’t change the fact that we still doubt. And as comforting as the words of Bukowski, it’s something we cannot escape.

The problem is that bad writers tend to have the self-confidence, while the good ones tend to have self-doubt. – Charles Bukowski

Despite the assurance that, “Hey! I’m a good writer because I doubt!” we still chuckle and smirk in disbelief. Maybe the saying is true. But whom am I kidding? I don’t believe Bukowski. I’ve not read any of his works. Even if the internet proves he’s a good writer, we don’t know if this quote is true. There’s no substantial evidence to it. So, where does that leave us? Back at square one.

At least, we’re not alone.

I know it’s impossible to be confident in my works. I’ll always be afraid of disappointing my readers. I’ll hold my breath at the sight of a new review. I’ll not know where I stand in this ocean of writers. And I’ll never stop wondering. You probably feel the same way too. However, in the unknown, I will keep writing.

My dream is far too valuable to be shaken by uncertainties. So I’ll live with them – both doubt and dream – the unlikeliest of friends. In spite of their differences, they drive each other. And the result of their friction fuels my passion. At the end of the day, that’s all I need. That’s all you need. The only important emotion, in the midst of our insecurities, is passion. Because passion… is the spell that turns dreams into reality.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2016 in Writing Journey

 

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Aspire To Inspire

aspiretoinspire

We all aspire to inspire. But how much are we willing to give to be an inspiration?

In the past 3 months, during the Geek & Sundry fantasy contest, I’ve learned that inspiring others requires a whole lot more than just being me. Yes, being me is the start. And doing what I think I do best – writing – is good too. But being me and writing stories have its limits. If I truly want to be an inspiration, I have to give. And by giving, I mean living by example.

It’s tough to live by example. For those in the creative industry – those being watched – living by example takes a conscious effort. Heck, living by example in general, requires purposeful action. Because in reality, nobody wants to be kind on a bad day, nobody wants to be generous when finance is tight, and nobody wants to support during emotionally trying times. We’re humans after all, and our lives include both the highs and lows. So to actually live by example, we have to do more when we don’t feel like it. We have to go beyond merely existing and… give.

I personally do not think I’m a good example. I’m trying to be, though. I’m trying to care about those around me. I’m trying to be generous and lend a hand to the less privileged. I’m trying not to judge others, because I’m flawed myself. I don’t know if all of my actions are inspiring others. But I do know, that when I see comments about how my stories and my dream chasing endeavours inspire people, I don’t want those to be all I have to offer. I want to try to be a light whenever and wherever I can.

Still, I’m not perfect. Trust me, I’ve imagined knocking a helium balloon out of a child’s hand. I’ve feigned ignorance out of the unwillingness to help. I’ve laughed at people’s spelling mistakes, only to realise how I make laughable Korean mistakes myself. I’m also an introvert, so being friendly is the last thing on my mind. But if there’s any consolation, I know I’m trying . And I hope that my stories won’t just be an inspiration to you, but my life will be as well. I hope that one day, Jeyna wouldn’t just be a writer. Jeyna would be a writer who lives by example. Yes, it’s going to be tough. But… you know what? My life is a story itself. And it’s the most important story I have to tell.

Often times, we get caught up in creating that we forget the most important thing: our life stories. My life story and your life story speak more than anything we can physically create. It’s the most powerful and moving tale we will ever write. And when we aspire to inspire, we are drafting this story. Sure, there will be plenty of edits. But at the end of the day, we can give our stories a good closure. Our unique plot lines can make a difference in the lives of every reader we encounter. Unequivocally, our actions will speak louder than words. Can you believe I’ve only realised this now?

I hope that one day, I wouldn’t just be the writer that writes. I hope that one day, I would be the writer that lives. And from one creator to another, let’s write a story that no one can put down. Let’s aspire to inspire not just through creating, but living.

(*I apologise if this post reads a lot like a personal blogpost. I just couldn’t help but share what I’ve learned during the campaign of The Slave Prince. And speaking of The Slave Prince, the book won the Geek & Sundry Fantasy contest! It will receive a full publishing deal from Inkshares! Woo hoo! I’m super excited. Should you like to know more, head over to the book page and follow the book. Updates on the book’s progress will be posted there. Also, if you’ve not pre-ordered the book, you can still do so. It’s at a cheaper price now, and who knows how long it’ll stay that way.)

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2016 in Writing Journey

 

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