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Category Archives: Writing Journey

Is Genre Important?

I think we’ve all wondered, at some point during our creative journey, if genre is important. We question if fantasy sells better, if post-apocalyptic is hot this season, if memoirs win more awards, if our genre – the one we love and consider mastering – is worth pursuing. So, let me just clear this up today. This is a personal statement. I am in no way claiming my thoughts are based on a rule, and I’m speaking from my belief: personally, I don’t think genre is important. What brought me to this conclusion? Why – why I write.

Genre isn’t important, because I’m not trying to be the next bestseller. Now, I’m not saying it’s wrong to want to be the next bestseller. Heck, if that’s your goal, go for it – I’ll cheer you on! But, personally, my goal isn’t to write the next hit novel. I have no plans to craft what the majority of people want to read. My goal is to write what is meaningful to me and what I think is important to share. And if I end up being a bestseller along the way, that’s a bonus! If not, it makes no difference in my authoring career. I’m still going to write what I want to write.

Genre isn’t important, because I’m also not trying to win any awards or competitions. Again, if that’s your goal, please don’t take any offense at my personal statement. I know what type of a writer I am – far from literary and a fan of simplicity. And through my past experiences, writing for awards and competitions, I’ve found myself pretending. Well, it feels like it – it feels like I’m ditching my voice and writing to suit the preference of another. And I know… that’s not me. That’s not how I write. Though there’s nothing wrong with challenging myself and writing outside of the box, I don’t enjoy doing so for the sake of winning. Personally, it doesn’t feel right. And, well, it’s just not fun – it kind of feels like work.

Genre isn’t important, because it doesn’t fit my writing goals. But of course, the same cannot be said for you. Perhaps your goal is different. Or, perhaps, you’ve yet to find your genre.

If you’ve yet to find your genre, I encourage you to try them all. Play around with bildungsroman, attempt a crime (story), and dive into satire. Don’t limit your ability to be creative just because science fiction is gaining traction, or because zombie novels are adapted into movies. Find your genre by exploring them. But more importantly, know why you write.

Steven Furtick once said that if you have a strong ‘why’, the ‘what’ doesn’t matter. What genre you’re writing doesn’t matter if your why is the force behind it. So, if you’re questioning your choice, I encourage you to uncover the reason behind your passion. If your reason is to win awards, then write to win awards. If your reason is to be the next J.K Rowling, then write to become a bestseller. If your reason is to inspire, then don’t let anyone tell you to write otherwise. And if your reason is purely for entertainment – because you love writing – then don’t be ashamed, just write!

In the big picture, genre pales in importance. Yes, it’s a facet of writing. But, it doesn’t make a masterpiece. It’s the pastel in the background – the base on your canvas. The real art are the strokes on top – the story that stands out and makes a statement. Your story holds greater value – it is your artwork and skill that sells by the millions, not your chosen base colour. So don’t focus on the genre. A good story can be written in any setting, but a bad story finds no success even under a popular label. It is what you say that matters most. And you can’t say anything substantial without a solid why.

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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Why Do I Write?

I am a person of few words. Well, not in writing. But I’m a person who speaks few words. I think more than I should, and I keep most of my thoughts to myself. For me, it’s difficult to articulate my thoughts without giving them thought. Hence, often times, I just don’t say them. It isn’t something I do by choice. It is who I am. So, why do I write?

I write to share a part of me. It’s safe to say that those who read my words know me better than those I’ve spoken to – that is if you’re not within my minute, trust circle. I find it easier to express myself with literal ABCs – such is the case. And taping away at the keyboard is a peaceful, freeing, and comforting activity. Perhaps such a notion is incomprehensible for the verbal. But this is why I write: to be heard.

I am a person who lives for today. But, I’m also a person who lives for tomorrow. I worry not about my future, yet I live to leave a legacy. It’s ironic, yet it isn’t. I desire to be someone whose name lives beyond the grave. This is something I do by choice. It is fuel for my passion. So, why do I write?

I write to be an inspiration. I don’t know if my words written today, or tomorrow, would make a difference. But if I can inspire one life, I’m achieving what I’ve set out to achieve. If I can move someone to chase their dreams, I’m leaving a legacy. Perhaps not an astronomical legacy, where I’d go down in history, but this is why I write: to change lives.

I am a person with worlds in my head. These worlds home characters, with great desires for an epic journey. They want me to tell them. They need me to tell them. I cannot stifle my creativity, because it simply cannot be stifled. My mind is already crowded as it is, and clearing it is something I have to do. So, why do I write?

I write to take you on an adventure. My stories will not please everyone. They could possibly bore you. And perhaps, only a handful are worth reading. As an author, I don’t know which stories are good and which stories are bad – I cannot predict a story’s success. But when there’s a story to tell, I need to tell it. I will strife to tell it. This is why I write: to breathe life into fiction.

I am a person who is far from extraordinary. I live in a third-world country, grew up in a middle-class family, went to university for a degree, and now hold a day job like the average jane. To some, it seems like I have it all. But an impression is not reality. I’m not a prodigy. I’m not the chosen one. I’m not even sure if I have talent. And this is my actuality. So, why do I write?

I write to give hope. I am a nobody. And if I can accomplish a hint of success, so can you. If I’m allowed to dream and chase my dreams, so are you. If I am persevering, so must you. I don’t know where life would take me – just like you, I’m clueless – but I’m willing to keep honing my craft. If I can see the worth of my art, so should you. This is why I write: to insist that our dreams are important, and to prove that we can.

I am a person whose journey hasn’t ended. I have a long road ahead of me. Or perhaps, a short road – only God knows. But at where I am today, I know there is much to do and much to experience. Today isn’t the end for me. Today could just be the start. In the unknown, this much I know. So, why do I write?

I write to tell my story. As long as I’m still breathing, I hope – through my story – I’m heard, I’m inspiring, I bring forth tales of wonder, and I challenge you to keep your passion alive. I hope to share what I’ve learned, to give through my words, and to leave an account worth reading. This is why I write: to be a living testimony, and to reflect the one who called me.

So, who are you? Why do you write – why do you do what you do? We all have a reason for our passion. I’ve shared mine – what is yours?

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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3 Ways To Crush A Writer’s Block

Currently, I’m working on the second book of my trilogy. And as I’m trying my best to tie up book one and prepare for book three in this middle book, I find myself struggling to keep the story exciting. In fact, closing one adventure while prepping for another has never been this difficult. Of course, I knew writing a trilogy wasn’t going to be easy. A trilogy is a huge commitment and requires more layering than stand-alone novels. However, I didn’t expect to hit a block barely midway into the series. It’s frustrating. I’m tired. But I need to get it done! So to get past this stage, I’ve been practicing 3 things. Hopefully, these 3 things would help you too… should you be in a similar predicament. After all, stuck is the worst place any writer can be in.

#1 Vocalise Ideas

Personally, I find that voicing my ideas help me generate more ideas. The more I say them out loud, the easier it is to fix and improve them. Yes, I know how talking to myself makes me look. No, I’m not crazy. In fact, I voice my daily thoughts more frequently than I should. But off late, I’ve been internalizing my ideas. I’ve been keeping them boxed, that they’ve gone stale. Realising this, I decided to give them some fresh air – bouncing them off my room wall, behind closed doors. And lo and behold, a plot twist recently hit. So, if you’re not already monologuing, I suggest you give it a go. You never know what crazy idea would come your way, simply by acting a little mad.

#2 Dive Into Similar Works

Disclaimer: I’m not promoting plagiarism. You should never copy someone’s work. But, there’s nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from others.

As my trilogy is about a young king, set in a medieval world of magic, I’ve been diving into similar works of its genre. I’ve been watching countless historical dramas, to grasp palace politics while exposing myself to old world architecture. Because I cannot travel back in time and work as a palace maid, it’s impossible for me to write a story based on my experience. Hence, the only way for me to gain perspective is to embrace the works of others’.

I seek to be inspired by parallel worlds – to see it play out before my eyes, and to live vicariously through works of fiction. And not only do these stories oil the gears of my own, I’m left thoroughly entertained too.

#3 Run Head First

I’ve probably mentioned this before. Wait, I believe I’ve mentioned it before. But, I’ll say it again: to get a story moving is to write it. A story cannot write itself and it needs us to finish it. So despite the herculean block, shadowing us from the finish line, we have to charge forward. We have to crush that block by writing the most horrendous chapters. Yes, you’ll need to rewrite them. And yes, you’ll want to weep at the horror of your own words. Trust me, I know. But thankfully, those words have been written – you can go back and fix them, because they’ve been written. So run head first. Charge at the wall. It’ll hurt, but the pain is worth the finish line.

As I strive to complete my book this year, I hope you endeavour to finish your own projects too. We’re all on the same boat, navigating the rough waves. But no matter what comes our way, we’re the authors of our stories and we have the power to bring them to an end. No block is too big for an author to overcome. And knowing this, there’s no stopping us.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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What To Do When No One Believes In You

Have you ever felt like the world has abandoned you?

The sudden isolation – a wave of nothingness – in a sea of hopes and dreams. Where you – a fragile yet polished porcelain – are about to tip over the edge of reality. You’re seemingly alone, and not a soul stands beside you. Those pillars of support, you’ve once leaned on, now crumble into non-existence.

What do you do?

Your dreams are in question – you’ve invested your heart and soul, yet no one seems to believe in you… anymore. Those who once cheered you on, now mum in your latest feats. Yes, you know you should believe in yourself. You know your passion will keep you going. But alone is not how you wish to continue. Alone is scary. Alone is where you fight your demons, face the dragons, and slay the beasts, without aid – without a trusted companion. You will not die in your battles, no. But you will have to make more strikes, draw more arrows, and crash in sheer exhaustion.

Where are they – the ones who’d go on this quest with you?

They are there. They have lifted their blades once, and they will lift them again for you. But not today. Because today, it’s your turn – to charge alongside another warrior in their own quest. Today is your turn to be a moral support, to cheer and raise your voices, and to stand by someone who needs your help. Today, you’re part of the infantry. Tomorrow, you lead the battle.

Often times, we’re caught in our own ambitions that our passion becomes our only focus. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. Your dreams are important, and you should always go after them. But when our sight is centred on just us, our peripheral is blurred. And when we don’t see others standing in the centre with us, we start to feel alone.

In reality, we’re not alone. In reality, there are others lingering in our peripheral – chasing their own dreams. By taking our eyes off ourselves, we’ll begin to see those around us. We’ll begin to see how they’re always there for us. And we’ll begin to realise they need us too.

What do you do when no one seemingly believes in you? You believe in others.

Call it reverse psychology, or whatever you want, but the subject isn’t the other person – the subject is us. We don’t need to convince others to believe in us, because they already do. But by actively believing in others, we’re no longer alone. And don’t worry, we don’t have to give up our own pursuits to be a support. We can still run after the stars while we pace with others.

Personally, I endeavour to support those around me as best as I can. Writing this post is, somewhat, a give back to all those lovely comments I’ve received. Though I may not be able to always support financially, I’ll use my words as reinforcements. Because, as you and I both know, a little goes a long way on this road of dreams. And as much as we don’t want to walk alone, so do others.

So, let’s be a sturdy pillar to those around us. Let’s put our faith in someone’s crazy aspiration. And let’s embark this arduous journey as a team. It isn’t impossible to achieve greatness alone, but together… we make it easier.

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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Creating Believable Characters

I remember the day I faced reality – the day a reviewer of The Battle for Oz said my characters were two-dimensional and un-relatable. That both Alice and Dorothy were kind of weird, and that neither grew throughout the tale. My first response was, well, defensive. But after thinking it through, I had to agree. You see, I’m no master at creating believable characters. Believe me when I say, character development is my weakest spot. And knowing this, I’ve been trying to improve. But… how?

How does one create three-dimensional characters? How do we make them relatable, and help them grow? How can our characters move readers on an intimate level?

The thing about writing is this: despite the many resources, some things have to be learned through experience. And almost literally, character development is one of those things. Literally. You can read stacks of books, but if you don’t see it – feel it – your characters will remain flat on its pages. What do I mean by that? It’ll be easier to explain by telling you what I did, and am still doing.

Are you ready? Here’s the big reveal: my secret to creating believable characters is… Well, it’s really no secret. It is, however, something we may have overlooked – something so basic – something that is of us. It is… human psychology. Yes, the understanding of the human mind. I’ve come to discover that studying and observing human behaviour is the key to creating believable characters.

I first dived into this study out of curiosity – I wanted to be able to read people for fun. As an individual with a habit of watching others, being able to interpret expressions, gestures, and speech patterns was a bonus. So, I scoured the world wide web. And from what I’ve gathered, I can now spot attraction, notice physical habits, and I’m more aware of my own thoughts and actions. But how do these skills actually help with character building? It starts with the approach.

With this insight, I approach my characters not as their author but as a friend, parent, mentor, sibling, acquaintance, rival, and passerby. I also help my characters approach others via the same state of mind. Simply put, I present characters based on how other characters perceive them. I create an impression through the eyes of others. Because in reality, that’s what we do.

Science says it takes seven seconds for us to judge a person we’re meeting for the first time. We don’t do it on purpose, but we do it anyway. The way a person speaks, stands, and expresses emotion, tells us whether we like them or not. In seven seconds, we either have a foe or an ally. In seven seconds, we either come off as awesome… or not so awesome. Just by knowing this fact, isn’t it interesting to see how your characters fair with each other?

What did Thom think of Seanna on the road to Daysprings? By presenting first impressions, characters have more depth when they prove those impressions right… or wrong. And since they’re defined by another, it is our job to help them prove themselves. Which brings us to our next question: how do we do that without spelling things out? Ironically, readers don’t want to read a character – they want to discover a character. So how do we send readers on an expedition, while providing the exact coordinates to the treasure? The answer is in body language.

I had a fun time writing Trails of the Wind, specifically the scene where the antagonist entered stage. I’d set to fill his character with habits, he himself wasn’t aware of. Right off the bat, he taunted with false guffaws, slow claps, and finger snaps. He smirked when he contradicted himself. And, he rarely failed to announce his arrival either verbally or physically. I’m pretty sure you, with your innate ability to read character, don’t like him already. And just like that, you have a grasp of his personality – not a firm grasp, but a grasp nonetheless. My goal wasn’t to present his personality intrusively, but subtly. And body language is always subtle.

Personally, understanding human behaviour has helped me in creating believable characters. As I observe, discover, and challenge, I see and feel the world differently. And from my experiences, I’m able to translate ideas into depictions. The day you grasps the very nature of us beings, is the day your characters do the same. And guess what, you don’t need a master’s degree. You just need to pay a little more attention to those around you.

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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The Perfect Timing

I believe in the perfect timing. And I encourage you to do the same.

In 2003, I began my writing adventure. I was thirteen, and a horrible writer. In 2011, I wrote my first novel. I launched my book on my 21st birthday, and never did/never will cover the cost of that project. In 2015, my first professionally published novel hit bookshelves. I thought it would change my life. But on a monumental level, it did not. Counting the years, it has been awhile since I started. But am I where I dreamt I’d be in the start? No. Will my time come? I believe so. When? I don’t know.

It’s easy to throw in the towel whenever dreams and goals don’t come to past. Why? Because we live in a world where everything is accessible with a snap of a finger. We’re accustomed to the promptness, that our patience has ebbed. And when we don’t see our dreams realising one year, two years, three years down the road, we call it quits. With the lack of patience, we give up on the most important things in life – we fail to realise, that the things that matter, don’t run with earth’s timeline. And with that ignorance, we move on… never achieving what we initially set out to achieve.

I’m no stranger to the thoughts of giving up. In high school, I loved writing. But because I didn’t win any short story competitions, I thought I wasn’t good enough. And yes, I wasn’t – I wasn’t good enough. So, I stopped writing stories and went into poetry. But if I kept writing – practicing and honing the craft – I could’ve been good enough, and perhaps be better than I am today. Due to the lack of immediate results, in an era of instant gratification, I questioned my passion. But thankfully, I decided to try again. And since then, I’ve learned to be patient – to trust in the perfect timing.

I know it’s scary to put faith in something we cannot see. Time is not physical, and the concept of the perfect timing could actually take decades to materialise. Heck, we might not even live to see its arrival. In this case, ignorance isn’t bliss. However, such ignorance holds the power of believe.

Passion is driven by believe – without believe, there’s no passion. But believe requires the metaphysics of time. It is of this world, but doesn’t abide by worldly laws of seconds, minutes, and hours. Hence believing in our dreams – constantly fanning our passion – can only be achieved by faith in the perfect timing, where dreams come to past and where lives are changed.

If you want to achieve your dreams, you have to believe – even if it takes years, even if you don’t see the results in your youth, even if it only presents itself generations later – there’s a perfect timing for everything. And as ignorant, laughable, and foolish as it may be – to have such a conviction – it is worth the lifetime.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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Travel & Write

I love traveling – most of my friends, and even some of you, know that. I actually make it a priority to travel at least once a year. And because I’m not living in luxury – despite few assuming so, due to my escapades – I save as much as I can every month to make travel possible. It has become a ‘need’ in my life. But why?

There is, of course, the reason of ‘taking a break and seeing the world’. That’s the best reason anyone can give. It’s also a very legit one. But aside from that, I’ve found another reason to travel: inspiration. Traveling has inspired my writing. In fact, it has made me a better writer. Flights of fantasy frame a tale, but an experience gives it life. I endeavour to travel because I believe it gives my stories life – it makes them real. But how so, you ask?

#1 Cultural Understanding

Whenever I hop on a plane, I subject myself to a culture unlike my own. There’s a whole new way of doing things in a foreign land – a new mindset, upbringing, and belief. This unfamiliarity is the perfect opportunity to broaden my perception of the world. It corrects my former notions, and opens my mind to different possibilities. This understanding helps in my writing, especially when trying to break from a mold.

Often times, we box our characters in an ideal world – a world with a common set of cultures and beliefs. We do so because it’s safe – it’s what we know. But by experiencing other cultures in the real world, we gain a new understanding. Through the diversity, we’re able to sculpt a story from a fresh perspective. And by infusing the variety of life, we make our stories relate-able. Such stories live beyond the final page.

#2 Sight Beyond The Picture

There’s a difference between seeing a picture of an icy mountain peak and actually seeing it in person. There’s a set of emotions that come from sight beyond a picture. When you stand before a colossal work of nature, you’ll find yourself lost for words – awed at its magnificence. But when you look at a picture, you only feel a pinch of that emotion. You cannot grasps its magnitude and beauty, and your imagination will have to fill in those gaps.

When you’ve seen something in reality, your capacity to describe becomes far greater. The hustle and bustle, of a crowded street, is easier written when you’ve been jostled by the swarm of bodies. Compare that to a snapshot of Shibuya crossing, you can only imagine being sardined. Writing through an experience will leave a sense of reality with your reader. But to paint a real picture for them, you have to see its reality for yourself.

#3 Play Of Emotions

How important are emotions? Very. A writer needs to feel, before a reader can do so. But how can you feel anxious, overjoyed, fearful, and excited in writing, if you’ve not felt it in reality? There are many emotions aside from the common, everyday Inside Out posse. To know what it feels to be truly lost, is to be truly lost. To know what it feels to be wonder-struck, is to be truly wonder-struck. To know what it feels to be… you get my drift.

Traveling gives you the opportunity to experience and play with emotions you normally don’t. It helps you grasps the true meaning of a word. It helps you explain it in words, drawing from your very own encounters. Invoking emotion in a reader requires an author who knows that emotion inside out. And the only way to know an emotion is to feel it.

I know I’ve sold traveling as if it’s the best thing a writer can do. I also know that traveling may not be a luxury for some, while it may not be a priority to others. Whatever it is, I want to encourage you to see the world. You don’t have to board a plane to do so – you just need to try something new. Explore a part of your city you’ve not traversed. Try exotic dishes at a foreign restaurant. Befriend somebody from another country. Go out and experience the world first hand. Trust me, it’ll make a whole lot of difference in your writing – this, coming from a wanderlusting author.

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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