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The Hate In Art

Recently, I read an article about a young adult novel under fire by the YA twitter community. Influencers claimed the pre-released book was racist. They questioned the publisher for publishing it. Members of the campaign advised their followers to stay clear of it. And whatever good reviews it previously received… well, those were buried under a 1-star average rating on Goodreads. But, while I scrolled through the article – it was really long, so I skimped through – I found myself frowning. I frowned not because the book was supposedly racist – I frowned because I felt for the author. And after I wondered how she faced the criticism without breaking down, I feared… for myself. Reminded that this world is unafraid to voice its opinions – most of the time in a brutal manner – I was anxious.

Yes, we know not everyone will love our work. There’ll be haters. Many will bash the good out of our art. Some will even take it personally and attack us as creators. It’s a scary world we live in. And as much as we wish for harmony, kindness, and our faith in humanity to be restored, the reality stirs warranted anxiety. It’s something we, unfortunately, cannot avoid. So, I guess now’s the perfect time to say, we can change the world, right? Alas, I can’t say that. Because, we can’t. At least, we can’t change how people chose to respond. We can’t convince others to go easy on us. We can ask, but it doesn’t promise a kinder response. However, there is hope. Because amidst the hate, there is love.

Out of curiosity, I headed to the questionable book’s Goodreads page. There, I found an average 3-star rating. Outside of Goodreads, on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, it had an above 4-star rating. It’s safe to say, the heat it took prior to its launch didn’t burn it to the ground. Now, I’ve not read the book itself nor do I intend to -I’ve long past my teenage years obsessed with supernatural YA novels – but I’m glad. I’m glad for the author. Though the review section alternates between good and bad ratings, the book has its defenders. There are those who saw what some found negative to be positive. There are those who chose to give the author the benefit of the doubt. While I don’t dismiss the bad reviews, because some of them are objective, not all hope is lost for the future of this book.

Using this book as a case study, I realised how fleeting events are. No matter the intensity of a campaign, for or against something, it will come to an end. It has to come to an end. Though some crusades last decades, there’s always a finish line. Just like a ripple, its waves eventually abate. We cannot predict how long it takes, or when the remaining residue evaporates, but we can find rest in knowing it’ll end. And such is the case with hate.

I believe hate has no lasting throne. Despite its countless attempts to crown itself, through events, people, and circumstances, it’ll ultimately be dethroned. So the next time we find hate in a battle to take us down, let’s look at the end. Let’s find love in those who’d stand by us. And let’s not forget, that in time, it’ll be over. Hate may have the power to set us off track – detouring our dreams and destroying our passion – but hate can only do so within its short term. If we stand firm during it’s brief tenure, it’ll lose its power… and we’ll win the war.

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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A Royal Pain

It’s been awhile since I posted something like this. I assume you have to be famous to write such a post regularly. Alas, I’m not. But no matter the frequency, to be able to write this is a blessing. Hence, here I am – on this rare occasion – to make a public update regarding The Slave Prince. And if you supported the book during the contest, or have pre-ordered it, this will be good news.

As of this month, The Slave Prince starts production. Yes, the ball is rolling! But despite the celebration, I have my work cut out for me. Unlike The Battle for Oz, The Slave Prince is receiving extensive developmental editing. This means I’ll be rewriting and editing the content a whole lot. With the first dev letter being 14 pages long, one can assume there’d be more where it came from. So… I guess it’s time I book a room in Alpenwhist. After all, it would be a while before I leave.

Since it’s just the start of production, I’ve spent the past few days responding to the general issues present in my book. At the same time, I’ve drafted a rewrite outline to be discussed with my dev editor. Also – hoping to get the book in your hands sometime in 2018 – I’m putting the writing of the sequel to my trilogy on hold. I can’t juggle two novels at the same time. But have no fear, my blog will still be here – I’ll be posting as usual.

So with all that said, it looks like everything would be smooth sailing… right? No, I joke.

Writing and producing a book isn’t easy. You probably know this. But often times, we forget. In fact, after I’d completed my countless edits of The Slave Prince, I naively thought I was done. I heaved a sigh of relief. Then, I received my first dev letter. Then, I realised I wasn’t done. And I know, I still won’t be done once I pass developmental editing. Copyediting will include another series of rewrites and edits. It would be another season of change for the book. And when I finally let go of The Slave Prince, it would be publication day. From that day on, I can only hope my hard work pays off.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all these to deter you from writing. You know me – I’m an advocate of chasing your dreams. My reason for sharing this is to cheer you on. It’s tough – I feel you, bro. But we can do it – we have the strength to trudge through every phase of writing. And, it will all be worth it. Whether our book sells by the millions or the mere hundreds, the act of bringing them into fruition is worth our blood, sweat, and tears. We just need to stay focused and don’t lose heart. With the finish line in sight, let’s give our very best in every leg of the race.

Now, if you’re a reader, I’d like to drop you a message too. I know not all books are great – I’ve read some pretty dreadful ones. But if you could give writers some slack, that would be wonderful. If you could be kind with your reviews, we would appreciate it. I know hard work doesn’t excuse horrible writing. And I know, you have every right to dislike and leave as many 1-star ratings as you deem fit. Personally, I’m fine with that. But, you can also be kind. Go easy on your words and encourage writers to be better. Choose to build dreams instead of tear them down. Because who knows, your 1-star review might just birth the next bestseller.

As I’ve said before, writing is a journey – there would be ups and downs, easy days and hard days, great sales and no sales, fans and haters. But, we don’t choose our craft because it’ll be smooth sailing from start to finish. We choose our craft out of passion. No matter where we are – no matter who we are, whether writer or reader – let’s live with passion. It gives us a purpose, and it makes life so much more interesting.

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2017 in Others

 

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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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100 Words, 6 Years Later

I wasn’t a good writer. I’m not a good writer now, either. But when I look back at my older works and cringe, I know I’ve come a long way. So if you feel like your writing isn’t great, I want you to know that you’ll get better. If you keep writing, you’ll improve. And it’s OK to admit that you suck. One cannot progress by already being the best.

To prove my point, let me show you the opening of my first novel and the opening of my most recent novel. Right off the bat, one seems more interesting than the other.

The Dreamer, 2011

Another day indoors. Tad sighed as he stared blankly at the book in front of him. He wanted very much to be out in the field playing ball with his brothers instead of reading a 500-page manual on “How to un-root an Energy Canister”, as though removing an Energy Canister was the job only for a highly professional engineer, if that was the case the world would have plenty of them. 

Tad shut the book forcefully and peered out the window. He could see his brothers being interrupted by his father in the middle of their game. He knew automatically that they were being ordered to get back to work. 

Trails of the Wind, 2017

Father is alive.

Those three words echoed in the depths of his cloudless mind. Standing before the wide glass window, he watched as day ended its shift. While night clocked in, the clear amber sky gracefully gave way to the moon. And in the peaceful arrival of darkness, the kingdom below lit with cheerful, vibrant lanterns – a reflection of the starry canvas above.

As the crackling logs in the fireplace warmed the bedchamber, Robb made up his mind. His heart was certain. And there were no more questions.

Father is alive.

Perhaps to you, I did a pretty decent job with The Dreamer. But if I handed you the entire book, I’m sure you’d change your mind. The Dreamer was self-published in 2011. It was my first ever novel, and I’m unashamed of it. I had to start somewhere, right? So I’ve left it in the world to be judged. Because at the end of the day, it’s the book that signifies the start of my adventure.

As for Trails of the Wind, I wrote it in 2015 but only finished editing in January. Currently, it’s being pitched to publishers. It’s part of a trilogy and I’m hoping someone would give it a shot. I know I would one day write better books than this. But for now, it’s the best I’ve written. Perhaps another six years down the road, I’d cringe again.

The great thing about writing is this: no one starts great. Sure, there are those who make headlines upon their debut. But what we don’t see are the years those authors spent on improving their skill. They could’ve been writing without a single soul knowing. Unfortunately, when they make their first appearance, many assume they’re literary geniuses. Many choose to compare themselves to a best-seller, without reading the backstory. And by doing so, many feel inadequate despite their potential.

Now, I’m not saying literary geniuses don’t exist – I think there are geniuses out there. But I doubt any success can come without constant devotion to one’s craft. Even geniuses have to put in work or their talent goes to waste. So stop comparing yourselves to others, and start comparing yourself to yourself.

The best gauge of improvement is through your own works. Acknowledging that some aren’t great isn’t a confession of incompetence, but a proof of determination. And determination is all you need to reach the finish line. You can be a great writer one day, dear reader. Today might not be that day, but that day would surely come if you don’t give up.

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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Being The Best Writer

Before I begin, I want you to know that you can now grab a paperback copy of The Battle for Oz on Amazon at only $8.33. If you’ve not read my book, here’s a chance to do so at a 50% discount! Buying this book will support my authoring career, allowing me to write more stories for you. So visit HERE to grab your copy today!

So, back to the topic at hand: being the best writer.

If you’ve ever wondered how you can be the best writer, wonder no more. Here are 3 things you can do to be the best writer ever! Trust me, it works.

1. Stop Caring

This is applicable in life as it is in writing. If you want to be the best writer, you have to stop caring about what others think of you. You have to stop entertaining passing judgements. You have to accept, that as a writer, you cannot please everyone. You are you. Seeking the approval of someone who doesn’t like your work simply holds you back from moving forward. And dwelling upon a dislike only makes you self-conscious. This self-consciousness can mold an opinion into truth – which is not the truth. So stop caring about the world’s perception. Perceptions aren’t reality.

2. Find Your Purpose

Why do you write? Do you know that knowing why you write makes you more self-aware? We all have a purpose in life, and we all certainly have a purpose in writing. Knowing our purpose helps us stay true to ourselves. It drives our passion, it reflects our identity, and it reminds us to be us. Whether you write to inspire, to be read, or to share, our writing comes from a meaningful place. These meaningful, purpose-filled words make us unique. And these same words express our uniqueness.

Yes, I believe we’re all special snowflakes. As derogatory as some like to use the term, it’s the truth. There’s no one like you, and knowing who you are makes you a better writer.

3. Endeavour To Improve

If all this while you thought I was writing about being the best writer in the world, let me clarify now: you cannot be the best writer in this world. There’s a sea of writers, honing distinct voices, that it’s impossible to benchmark this skill and talent. So perhaps the better title for this post would be: Being The Best Writer You Can Be. And the only way to be the best writer you can be ever (!) is by endeavouring to improve in your craft.

Writing is a life long journey. When you choose to become a writer – out of passion – you choose to do this for as long as you live. You may not be ‘the best writer you can be’ today, but the more time and effort you put into improving yourself, you will be ‘the best writer you can be’ one day.

“Ah, well Jeyna, I know all this,” you say.

Well, so do I. I’ve said this before in my previous posts. And though I’ve not specifically written a post about it, I’ve repeated myself like a broken record. However, I publish this post today with a single goal: I want to remind, both you and myself, that we can be great writers by staying true to ourselves.

We don’t have to change to fit into a best-seller mold. We don’t need to repurpose our dreams to be accepted by readers. We just have to strive to be the best we can be. And, let’s not just practice this in writing but in life too. Because the only time we experience life at its fullest is when we experience life as ourselves.

(Not-so-random plug; I recently launched my fitness blog over at blogspot. Besides writing, fitness is also a passion of mine. If you’re into it too, I’d love to have you there as well!)

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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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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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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