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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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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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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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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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Bagel | Rust | Lanyard

bagelrustlanyard

“That’s a stupid necklace,” she said.

Her fingers toyed with the glistening diamond resting on her chest.

“You know what it is, right?” she asked.

Her eyebrows rose condescendingly.

“Yes,” I replied. “My mum wears it to work.”

Her lips curled into a smirk.

“Did she lose her job and gave you that as a present?”

I dropped my gaze to the floor, contemplating on walking away.

“So, are you having dinner tonight?” she asked.

I stuffed my hands into my pockets, knowing what was coming next.

“Or are you too poor to even celebrate?”

I shrugged.

She laughed.

“You’re pathetic.”

She motioned for her posse before shouldering past me. And that was my day at school.

When the bell rang, I heaved a sigh of relief. I was eager to head home. I wanted to run from the chuckles and whispers, and see what my mother had planned. For days, I’d been looking forward to the celebration. Despite knowing it wouldn’t be as grand as my friends’, I was still excited. So I sprinted – my backpack bouncing on my shoulders, as I placed one foot before the other.

“There’s going to be food – lots – and lots – of food!” I told myself, stealing quick breaths in between. “Dad’s – going to be – home. And we’ll – have – the best – family dinner – ever!”

Beep!

My shoes skidded against the gravel.

“Watch where you’re going, kid!” the driver of the black sedan shouted from the open window.

“Sorry!” I bowed and saluted apologetically, before continuing in my sprint. As dangerous as it was, I wasn’t stopping for anybody. I’d been waiting for this day since the letter slipped under the door. No matter how hazardous my route, I needed to get home as fast as I could.

When I finally reached my destination, I took a second to catch my breath. While I gulped the air, stained with a rancid stench, I pondered upon my entrance. Should I take the front door or the window? I decided on the window. I could peek into my mother’s surprise, and surprise her instead.

Jogging into the side alley, I climbed onto the rectangular garbage bin, and jumped for the ladder. Coated in rust, the bars screeched in their descent and I hesitated little as I hopped on. My home was on the third floor of the old, brick building. But the question of its structural integrity never came to mind, as I ascended two steps at a time. Once I reached my floor, I kneeled behind the half drawn kitchen sink curtains and peered cautiously.

My mother was not to be seen. The dining table stood barren, the flattened pillows on the couch remained scattered since morning, and the ceiling fan was frozen in the time I left. There was, however, a letter by the door. And the moment I spotted it, dread hit me like an unexpected tidal wave.

“No. Not again,” I muttered. “He promised.”

Grasping whatever hope I had left, I slipped into the kitchen and snatched the letter from the floor. This time, I hesitated. I wondered if it was worth the read. Was the discovery worth the ache in my thighs and my child-like ignorance? Just before I made up my mind, the front door clicked and swung open.

“You’re back already?” my mother asked. Then seeing the letter, she tugged it from my weakening grip, and added, “You shouldn’t read letters addressed to me.”

“But it’s not addressed to anyone,” I replied. “And I know who it’s from.”

The handwriting drew a memory of when my father held my hand, in attempts to teach me the alphabets.

“He’s not coming home again is he,” I said.

My mother nodded her head, but oddly, with a smile.

“Why are you smiling?”

“Well, if he’s not coming home, it means we’ll have more to eat tonight,” she said.

“But… I want him here. I’d rather have him here than more food. I want him home.”

Aware she was unable to fulfill my wish, my mother remained silent. She simply gave my forehead a peck, before placing the brown paper bags on the table. Then standing by the kitchen sink, she read the letter to herself.

“What did he say?” I asked.

“He’s not coming home.”

“Is he coming home next year?”

“No.”

“Why? Did something happen?”

“No. He’s just not coming.”

The disappointment swallowed my hope in a single breath. Braving myself in the face of the many emotions stirring within, I fought against tears. Then, my mother repeated herself.

“But I’m glad.”

Frowning, I asked, “You’re glad? Because you want to eat more?” I was almost horrified at my mother’s response.

“No. I’m glad he still writes.”

“But he writes broken promises.”

“Yes, but he’s alive. And I’m thankful he still is.”

Now the one lost for words, I retreated to my room. I planted myself on my bed, staring at the ticking clock by the bedside. The urge to cry had vanished, as I thought over my mother’s words. It was only when she knocked on my door that I concluded she was right.

“Are you ready for our feast?” my mother asked in excitement.

“What are we having?”

“For starters, bagel. And in your favourite flavour!”

I smiled and wrapped my arms around her waist.

“What’s that for?” she asked.

“You’re right. I’m thankful he’s alive too.” Then looking up at her, I added, “And I’m thankful you’re alive, mummy. Happy thanksgiving!”

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Bagel, rust, and lanyard were words given by Mr.Hematite. I went with the thanksgiving theme as coincidentally, today is thanksgiving! And despite thanksgiving not celebrated in my country, I thought it’s worth writing about. After all, it’s always good to remind oneself to be thankful.

Now, it’s your turn. I challenge you to use this same three words and write a piece of your own. If you don’t have a story, here’s another challenge: make a list of everything you’re grateful for this year. I’m sure, that from the list itself, there’s a story to tell.

*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 November 24, 2016 in Original Works

 

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