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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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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’

the-7-stages-of

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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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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Poetic Milestone

poetic milestone

What should I say on a day like today? What right words should I put into play?
I know a simple thank you cannot do. So maybe something else in a similar hue?

In all honestly, I don’t know how to thank you all. Five thousand subscribers! That number is not small.
I must add something different in this special post. I have to try to be a more grateful host.

Maybe I should just say what’s on my mind? I’m sure those words will come out fine.
So please bear with me a little longer. Here comes more words from an indie author.

Firstly thank you for your time, dear reader. You’ve kept the dreams alive in this dreamer.
Thank you also for sparing a word and a thought. The monster of doubt, together we fought.

I truly appreciate all the support you have given me. If not for it, where would I be?
Even with all the ups and downs, your presence has made a smile from a frown.

I hope you will continue to be by my side, even if this journey has an unpredictable ride.
Surely you know that there is no fun, if the dragon is slain by a party of one.

Alas, the climb to the peak is still a long way and my adventure is only starting today.
But I’m ready for whatever tomorrow brings, even if the bee stings at the late arrival of Spring.

I pray my words will inspire much more, as I try to be better than I was the day before.
My dream is not impossible and yours aren’t too. So believe in yourself and don’t let fear stop you.

Let’s continue to dream together. With our passion, we can always go further.
Let’s toast to a greater future, and thank you once again for supporting my endeavour.

 Signed, Jeyna Grace © 2014
 
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Posted by on August 12, 2014 in Others

 

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In The Between

in the between

“Let’s play a game.”

Those were the four words that started it all. It was not a brain game of chess or a tickling game of twister, it was something I wish I never played.

“It’s simple.”

“How simple?” I asked sceptically.

Greg was an old friend who had a doctorate certificate hanging in his bedroom and a strange concept of games.

“We will see who can stay in the between for the longest.”

“Speak English, Greg,” my other friend said.

“You know the moment when you’re about to fall asleep? The moment when your mind gets clouded with strange thoughts that overlap and make no sense? The moment when your memory fails you even though you still have some control over your consciousness? That’s in the between.”

“I bet you made that up,” I said with a chuckle.

“The term, yes. I just thought it sounded cool,” Greg replied.

“Right, so how do we stay in the between? It’s not like we can stop ourselves from falling asleep,” my other friend asked.

“I have these things that would keep your brain active,” Greg said, as he placed two little round patches on his temples. “Don’t worry, they simply send magnetic pulses periodically to stop your brain from resting.”

My other friend picked up the wireless patches and examined them before asking, “So what does the winner get?”

“Bragging rights.”

I laughed and shook my head. It was stupid but the game sounded interesting.

“Fine, whatever,” I said.

Taking the patches and placing them on my temples, I followed after Greg as he lied down and shut his eyes. I didn’t expect it to work so quickly but that Friday was a busy day for me, and my body accepted rest almost immediately.

As my mind drifted in and out of different thoughts, I found myself questioning everything in my head. But as I tried to find the answers, I ended up forgetting the questions instead. It was odd just to be lingering in the between, and when I finally stopped I felt even more tired than I was before.

“Not bad,” my other friend said.

When my eyes opened, I found Greg with his eyes shut while my other friend chomping down a bag of chips.

“Enjoying the show? When did you stop?” I asked.

Just as I did, Greg opened his eyes and stared at the two of us. It took him awhile to fully get his brain aligned with consciousness, and when he finally did he asked, “How long have you two been up? Can’t believe you guys started the fun without me.”

“Your idea of fun is not fun,” my other friend said.

I nodded in agreement and checked my watch. When I saw that it was almost 7 a.m., I was rather shocked. I was in the between for eight hours but it felt like minutes. After that, I excused myself and was called a party pooper.

Exhaustion was heavy on my shoulders and I desperately needed sleep. So by the time I entered my apartment, I was ready to hit the sack. It was a beautiful Saturday morning and all I wanted to do was sleep, sleep without dreams and without interruptions. Unfortunately, I had none.

My bed was cosy, the curtains were drawn, and a soft relaxing melody was playing from the speakers. I would have fallen straight into a deep slumber any other day, but that morning I was stuck… stuck in the between.

I drifted in and out of thoughts, memories, and ideas but could not slip away from them. When I gave up trying and opened my eyes, my room was already dark. I checked my temples to see if the patches were still there, but from my memory I knew they weren’t. Something was not right and I called up Greg immediately.

“I can’t sleep. Your little game messed with my brain,” I said the moment Greg answered the call.

“What do you mean? I just took a nap and my brain rested fine.”

“Your brain is fine, but mine is not! I can’t sleep, I’ve been trying but I can’t,” I replied with a hint of exasperation.

“Calm down, alright. Try to sleep tonight, and if you can’t, give me a call tomorrow. I’ll come over,” Greg said.

I accepted his answer and decided to give it another shot. Maybe it was a temporary side affect? After fixing myself dinner, I took a shower and headed straight to bed. I also popped a sleeping pill just in case.  But as my head hit the pillow and my thoughts began drifting, it happened again.

I was semi-conscious in my head and I continued to stay that way. I tried to empty my mind, but every time I tried more voices and images appeared instead. I was stuck… stuck in the between.

When morning came, I rang Greg up and told him I could not sleep. He said he would come over after he ran some errands at his office, but I could not wait. So I headed to his office as quickly as I could.

By the time I reached the hospital, I jogged to Greg’s office and burst in with the words lingering in my head. “I can’t sleep, Greg. What am I doing wrong? What did you do to me?”

I sounded unlike myself, the calm and collected self I had pride in. Sleep depravation had a strange affect on me and I had no idea why.

“What am I doing wrong?!” I demanded, just as Greg asked his colleague to excuse him.

“It’s not what you’re doing wrong,” Greg quickly said as he pulled me to a corner.

“What? What are you talking about?”

“You shouldn’t be doing anything,” Greg answered.

“You make no sense!” I shouted.

Greg reached for my shoulders and began shaking me back and forth. I angrily attempted to push his hands away but I failed. Moments later, I found myself lying on a bed.

“Are you alright?” Greg asked.

Greg was hovering above me with his hands on my shoulders.

“You were yelling. You must have fallen asleep,” Greg said.

I slowly sat up and gave him a questioning look.

“I’m sorry. These patches aren’t ready. Lunch is on me, alright? Thanks for being my lab rat,” Greg said with a chuckle.

When he turned his back on me, I saw my reflection in a glass panel and immediately remembered where I was. I was in Greg’s lab helping him test out a new device. And though I could not remember what the device was for, I could remember my ‘dream’. It felt so real and I was glad it was over.

That day, I told myself to never again dwell in the between. No one was meant to stay in it. Yet somehow, I knew I would be drawn to it again. Hopefully… not any day soon.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Strange story, I know. It makes no sense. So let me tell you what inspired this.

In the between is actually a human emotion we have all experienced; the unsettling feeling of worry. When we worry, we place ourselves in a world where our minds are filled with questions we have no answers to. This world stops us from getting rest and leaves us wondering what we did wrong. We are distracted by it and we start acting like a different person. Worry is a place between reality and imagination, but a place that cripples us the moment we are stuck in it. To get out of worry is to simply do nothing, because in reality there is nothing to be done in situations we cannot control.

I decided to write about worry because recently I was worrying. I suffered the same effects until I decided to let it go, and my latest post on my personal blog helped me deal with that issue. So if you’re worrying about something, stop! It’s a waste of time and energy.

Anyway, let me know what you think of this story in the comments below! Don’t worry, I love hearing your thoughts no matter what they are 🙂

© 2014 Jeyna Grace

(For more short stories, click HERE)

 
23 Comments

Posted by on April 10, 2014 in Original Works

 

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