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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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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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Write To Challenge

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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.

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Posted by on January 5, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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Flight From Reality

Once in a while, I’d go away. Well, actually, at least once a year, I’d go away. This year, twice. So when I’m away, I schedule a post to tell you I’m away. Lest some of you diligent readers think I’ve forgotten you. Though, I highly doubt that. Still I’d like to think the absence of a weekly post is noticeable… at least to some. But is it though? No, I shouldn’t ask. I might not like the honest comments.

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So, yes, I’m away this week. I boarded a plane and flew from reality. And despite the uncomfortable budget flight, I’m loving it. Seeing the world is a hobby of mine. Absorbing the experiences outside of the norm – being in a new environment that requires me to adapt – allows me to feel, see, touch, smell, and taste something useful. It helps a great deal in my writing. From the countryside of Guilin, to the hustle and bustle of Seoul; from going unnoticed in Tokyo to the hospitality of Tasmania, traveling feeds my imagination. What is reality to some, is fantasy to me. And that’s why I need to go away.

If you’d like to know what I’m up to, especially during my globe-trotting weeks, head over to Instagram and Twitter. I upload pictures on both social media sites more frequently in new territories. But if you have no interest except for reading, there are tons of wonderful stuff here. I’d like to think they’re somewhat wonderful. Though some might disagree – you can be the judge. Until I get back and write another chapter of The Clubhouse, I hope you find something entertaining. If not, don’t worry, I’ll be back. There will be more to come and I promise, the new materials planned for 2017 are going to be fun.

Random, post script, fun fact: Did you know there’s a ‘Categories’ drop-down menu in the sidebar? 

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2016 in Others

 

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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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Time | Books | Ink

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The fireplace crackled – a scent of oak wood in the air – dipping the reading chamber in the amber of its flames, as the world darkened. The clouds outside groaned in the gathering of grey, and in a matter of minutes, the first of its countless raindrops fell. The time was now.

Books stacked in a great many variation of height stood in the centre of the chamber. Surrounding the castle of stories were five gold, crimson armchairs. And the ones found seated on those thrones, from as young as seven to as aged as seventy, called themselves Lectors.

Lectors chose to read when the warmth of fire met the cold of water, for their magic only surfaced when such opposing elements collide. With a book on their laps, they recited the words of a tale from the pages bound long ago. And at each spoken word, their magic came to life. As though they’d uttered a spell, the settled ink peeled themselves from the patchy parchments and rose into the air. They drifted in the draft-less chamber toward the tower of books. And they gathered upon the invitation of magic – magic that only came from the lips of the Lectors.

“How powerful is this magic?” you ask. “What do these gathered words do?”

They move. They create. They open.

Outside of the cages of their paperback prison, they beat to the rhythm of the soul. They bring forth the power to feel. In a world overwhelmed with shrewd emotions, deprived of the yearning breeze of solitude, these inked manifestations bring life – life that only comes from within the soul of its reader. Emotions that existed in the realm of unconsciousness, buried by one’s wakening moments, can breathe new life. These words move and stir the hardened heart to feel again.

But beyond the invisible yet tangible force, is its power to bring into being the imaginations of the mind. The stories constructed on paper, churn the bubbling cauldron, brewing a potion to escape reality. This potion feeds the mind a world not of the present. It builds a comforting environment for when the darkness grows unbearable. However, such magic is a double-edged sword and denying its strength is for the foolish.

Moving and creating are undeniably great feats of such magic. But the greatest feat of all is its ability to open doors to the universe unknown. For as the Lectors read from the spell bounding pages, the gathering words swirled into an orb of vibrant light. Piercing through the gaps of the inked alphabets, a portal within the strings of unintelligible words brought the universe to earth. But to shatter the shell of such magic was too soon. There were more to be read.

One book after another, the Lectors vocalised the tales. As the rain pattered against the tall, glass-paneled windows, the magic in motion grew. The ball of light expanded its reach across the chamber in immense power, tempting to explode with every addition. And when the last word of the last book left the lips of the youngest Lector, it finally did. The bounded magic caved within itself before ripping free from its wrappings. It released a wave of Tuscan sun, snuffing the flames in the fireplace. And as it did, the reading chamber plummeted into darkness. The cold and unwelcoming silence reigned at the end of a story, forcing the Lectors to linger in their presence until the sun arrived. Shining past the departure of the darkened clouds, light eventually returned and magic was gone.

The words once gathered in the creation of great magic rewrote themselves in the pages they called home. They would remain within their bindings until five new Lectors chose to read them again. Their magic will stay docile until their stories are unearthed once more. And when that time will arrive, no one knows.

Many Lectors have come and gone. Unfortunately, as the world orbits into the future, the heirs to this magic dwindle by the day. Despite the calling to move, create, and open, many have chose to ignore. Many have lost sight of the allure of such magic. And many have pretended ignorant to the tugging of its power. How then can this world survive without this magnificent force? How can society live without the strength, hope, and power this magic embodies?

It is upon the shoulders of the remaining Lectors to raise and pass this gift to the next generation. For magic cannot survive the evolution of men without a vessel. And if there’s one thing we all should know, is that every being homes this magic. Every being is a Lector. Every being can make time stop and breathe life into scribbles of ink. Every being can uncover this secret. Why? Because every being is called to be a reader.

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Time, books, and ink, were words given by monkeyeverythingblog. Let me start by saying I’m a hypocrite. Here I am writing a story about reading, when the book by my bedside hasn’t been touched in a month. Yes, I’m ashamed of myself. So as much as this story was written to encourage others, it serves as a reminder that I should never stop reading. There is magic in books. And such magic cannot be forgotten.

Now, it’s your turn. I challenge you to use this same three words and write a piece of your own. I’ve said this one too many times, and I’ll say it again: give this a shot!

*To download the banner, left-click then right-click to save.

3 Words, 1 Story © 2016 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2016 in Original Works

 

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