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Learn | Window | Brussels

One window remained. The only window un-shattered. Our last window to freedom.

“Are you sure we’re going the right way?” I asked, as skepticism settled.

“We’re almost there,” Marie answered – too confidently for someone without a map.

“I think we’re lost,” I stated.

“We’re not.”

Marie tapped on her compass, signalling we were still heading north. North was what we were told to follow – go north and you’ll find the castle. But after three hours of trekking the Hallerbos, my doubts could no longer be silence. What was I thinking? Could we be walking into a German trap? Should we turn back? I hesitated to suggest.

“Marie…”

Marie hissed. “Believe, Camille. We cannot lose hope now.”

Hope – hope started this mad venture. It had us believing the whispers of a butcher, whose family had successfully fled to the United Kingdom. He claimed that they escaped through a magical window of an ancient castle, nestled within the Halle Forest. But as fictitious as it sounded, many believed him. And to add truth to his fairy-tale, those who left for Hallerbos never returned.

The skeptics theorised that the Germans had caught those who attempted escape. But the believers clutched at the promise of freedom. As Marie and I hoped to flee the war, we believed the story too. So, we packed our bags and traveled from Brussels to Hallerbos.

To some of the older Belgian folks, Hallerbos was known as a mystical forest. During a specific time of the year, bluebell flowers would carpet the terrain. In such great numbers, the deep blue and purple flora was said to be magical – it could bring forth or shadow what lay on the forest ground. But before the seasonal bluebells could lead us to the castle, it brought us the soldiers.  

“Down,” I whispered, tugging Marie to her knees.

I couldn’t see the armed men in their field-grey uniforms, but I could hear them. Their foreign chatter traveled between the tall, scrawny trees. And as their voices rose in decibels, my heart pounded deafeningly in competition.

“Where are they?” Marie mouthed.

In reply to her question, I snapped my head in all cardinal directions. But in hope of glimpsing the enemy first, I saw no one – not even a silhouette. With the disembodied voices and the trudging of footsteps growing louder every second, I froze in fear. And then, as though they had heard my racing heart, the soldiers halted their conversations.

Instantly, I lay flat on my stomach. I cupped my hands over my mouth and lowered my head. I prayed to be unseen. I wished for peaceful silence. Unfortunately, the crunching of dry leaves and broken twigs persisted. They drew nearer until eventually, I could sense the enemy’s presence. I could feel their movement. And I knew, they would soon find me. But like a child, I believed that if I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me too. What a naive notion it was, until the encircling bluebells rustled.

The flowers shifted, as though someone was moving through them. Stiff as a log, the bluebells brushed against my body. At that moment, I expected a painful jab from the end of a rifle. But as I waited, nothing happened. Did they not see me? With courageous curiosity, I turned my head to peek. And to my surprise, there was no soldier hovering above me. Cautiously pushing myself into a seated position, while I scanned the dense timberland, I heard no voice and saw no man.

Still, something odd was occurring. The bluebells continued to rustle with the sound of heavy footsteps. The flora parted, creating multiple trails that slithered away from where I sat. Then, after what felt like an eternity of the strange phenomenon, silence cloaked the Hallerbos.

“Marie,” I whispered.

Marie remained on her stomach, stifling what sounded like sobs.

Marie,” I repeated.

As I moved in to comfort her, a peculiar shadow caught my eye. It had emerged up ahead, veiled by a ghostly fog. It didn’t outline a castle, but was large enough to be what we were looking for.

“Marie,” I said. “I think… we found it.”

Marie peered up – cheeks wet with tears. As I pointed toward the silhouette, she turned her head and gasped.

“We… we found it,” Marie chimed. “Let’s go – the window is on the first floor.”

Without hesitation, Marie rushed ahead. Staying on her tail, I kept the silhouette in sight. As the fog around the structure began to thin, I squinted my eyes in search of the window. How it could take us to safety was no longer a question. All I hoped for, was the sight of the window itself. For if I saw it – the only un-shattered window – I would learn that the story is true… and that my faith had finally saved me.

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Learn, window, and Brussels were words given by iamvickiroberts. I chose to build this story around the location, because I don’t think I’ve done something like this before. I guess… it didn’t turn out so bad. And, I discovered the existence of Hallerbos – yes, it’s real, I didn’t make it up.

Now, it’s your turn. You have until the end of January to write a story of your own with the three words given. Oh, and if you’d like me to write a tale set in your country, leave 3 words (one of which being your country) in the comment section below!

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

3 Words, 1 Story © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

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

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Posted by on January 11, 2018 in Original Works

 

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When Does Fiction Begin?

I know, for the last series of posts, there has been little fiction. I also know, that most of you, love fiction. So before I start writing fiction, I just thought I should set the tone for the year – to hold myself accountable to a new year of writing. And in order to do so, I’ve decided to share my blogging plans with you! But if I’m being honest, I simply don’t have anything else to write today – the holidays made me a little lazy – so this is a ‘cheat’ post. Nevertheless…

Based on the polls I ran a few weeks back, I’ll be producing two fictional pieces per month this year. One of which would be 3 Words 1 Story season 3, and the other would be 12 Genre Months. 12 Genre Months is another platform for me to challenge my writing and creative abilities – pushing past familiar settings to hopefully produce decent stories. You are invited to join me on this endeavour, as it’s always less daunting to embark on a new adventure with a friend. With two fictional posts a month, I’ll balance the remaining two weeks with my writing experiences (especially with a new book on the way) and inspirational posts.

As usual, when I retreat from reality for a vacation, there won’t be posts. Though, I will prioritise fictional content during those months. If life gets a little too hectic – which I hope it does when The Slave Prince launches – I might tap out for a while too. Those who’ve been around for years know I don’t miss a blog post unless I really have to – I don’t go absent without reason. But I’ll try… I’ll always try to give you something.

With that being said, I apologise for my laziness this week. After a slow, year end season, it takes a while to pick up momentum. But by next week, it’ll be full throttle. Thanks for sticking around last year, my dear reader! I’m looking forward to seeing more of you this year.

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2018 in Others

 

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Imagination: A Key To Staying Motivated

Motivation is something we need to get by. We need it in all of our decisions – to get up in the morning, to keep pursuing our dreams, to hold a conversation, to even take a shower. Yet, it is one of the hardest things to come by. Unlike inspiration, motivation doesn’t fall from the sky. It doesn’t pop up at random hours of the night. And to an extent, motivation is intentional. So, where do you find motivation? How do you become motivated?

I often blog about the importance of having a ‘reason’ – believing it as a great motivation to keep our goals in sight. I often say that without ‘reason’, it’s hard to keep a dream alive. But I also know that many people don’t have a ‘reason’. And it’s not because they don’t want to have a ‘reason’, it’s because they cannot find a ‘reason’. No matter how hard they try, there’s no reason to leave the bed, to try something new, or to care about anything or anyone. There simply isn’t an answer to the ‘why’s’ in life. And it’s not their fault – it’s not your fault if you don’t have a reason. In fact, it’s okay to not know the reason for your existence. It’s okay to not know ‘why’ this and ‘why’ that. Heck, you’re struggling as it is – to live this seemingly empty life – finding a reason feels like an added burden. However, you shouldn’t stop looking for motivation. Because even without reason, you can stay motivated… with imagination.

Imagination is a powerful source of magic. I say it’s magic because it isn’t bounded by science. Science cannot dictate the extent of imagination, unless you allow it to. You can think up the craziest situations – involving winged cows and one-legged frogs – and nobody can refute because they’re your imaginations. Who is to say they’re wrong? This makes imagination magical – it makes imagination powerful. And though the odds of a wild imagination coming to past may be low, I believe it’s enough – when it comes to magic, a little goes a long way. But, a question still remains: how do you use imagination?

Imagine with me… when you leave the house today, you’ll meet your favourite celebrity who incidentally needs your help to fix a punctured tire. Imagine with me… when you share your short story, a publisher stumbles upon it and says, ‘hey, this person has talent. I should contact them.’ Imagine with me… when you buy yourself a meal, you’ll walk into a tall and handsome man who happens to be a prince from a faraway land. If you just imagine – as crazy as your imaginations may be – your day might be a little less dull. And as an added bonus, you’re now in a world of countless possibilities.

More often than not, imaginations are as impossible as fiction. But when imagination drives you toward something, it opens doors of possibilities. It creates opportunities you never knew existed – it can make things happen. So, if you’re in a spot where all else has failed – when nothing can motivate you – start harnessing the power of imagination. Use the gift you were born with to slay your dragons. Learn to wield its instrumental nature, and you’ll be the warrior you’ve always imagined you could be.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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Why You Should Stop Playing Defense

Writers do it all the time. No, I should rephrase. Creators do it all the time. It’s almost natural – something we were born to do. And after many bouts of defense, we consider it normal. To be clear, I’m not saying it’s wrong. I do it too. I’m saying we should change our game plan – we should stop playing defense and start playing offense. Because only then, we can win the game.

Recently, I’ve been playing Clash Royale (#NotASponsor). It’s a live mobile game played amongst strangers. The tutorial of the game teaches players how to attack and defend their towers. However, playing defense will not result in a win. In order for the game to end – for a victor to be crowned – one must destroy the opposition’s three towers. The only way to win a game… is to attack.

In games as such, it’s almost considered dumb to merely play defense. How long can you keep the enemy at bay? Why are you wasting troops and strategy on defense? My dad once told me that in a game of chess, you have to think about attacking not just defending. When you start moving in on your enemy, your enemy will stop making offensive moves in self-preservation. Now, you’re in control. And when you’re dominating the game, it becomes easier to win. So then, why can’t we stop playing defense?

When someone criticises our work, leaves a not so favourable comment, or voices their dislike, why do we play defense? Why do we explain ourselves? Why do we make excuses repeatedly, without considering a possible problem?

Again, I’m not saying it’s wrong to be defensive of your work. I’m defensive of mine too – I always feel the need to explain myself, my actions, and my plans. But being defensive and never taking a constructive feedback into consideration is a silly move. If we’re constantly sweeping the problem under the carpet, we’re not cleaning the mess. We’re merely hiding it until someone else uncovers it. It doesn’t make anything better. And as creators, don’t we want our works to be better?

It’s time to stop playing defense and start playing offense. Always take a step back and evaluate every comment – good and bad. If there’s an obvious problem with your work, stop making excuses and fix it. If more than one person finds something odd, stop justifying and look into it. Defend your work, but learn to attack issues that are holding it back from becoming better.

Just like us, our work isn’t perfect – there’s always room for improvement. Sheltering ourselves from the truth changes nothing. Protecting our pride will not help us grow. If we want to improve in our craft, we have to start attacking. We have to accept we’re flawed. It is only when we stop hiding our flaws – embracing our weaknesses – that we become strong.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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What (The Heck) Is Developmental Editing?

“What does developmental editing entail?”

Perhaps you’ve once asked this question. If not, you’re now probably wondering what it is. So to answer, allow me to share my most recent experience with you.

First and foremost, I’m certain dev editing varies from book to book. However, the approach taken by a dev editor is the same. And from the perspective of The Slave Prince, I’m sure you’ll grasps its function. Let’s get to it!

My dev editor goes by the name of Matt. Matt took two weeks to read my manuscript. After which, he sent me a developmental letter alongside comments on my manuscript. The comments were secondary to the letter, but both addressed key issues in my book. What were they?

#1 Descriptions

Matt told me my novel was sorely lacking in descriptions. And here I thought, I did a pretty decent job! I was wrong. Before my latest rewrite, I failed to picture the named ships. I fell short on the kingdom and palace layouts. I also didn’t establish racial differences, facial features, and physical changes over a 3-year time jump, for my characters. With dev editing, this issue was brought to light. And out of the 6000 words of new material, a chunk went to descriptions.

#2 Characters

When it came to the characters, Matt said their needs and wants weren’t clearly established. I had to reevaluate my protagonist, antagonist, and supporting characters. I needed to make it clear in writing – establishing their former desires and the changes that occur. And through this process, I made a major shift in my protagonist’s behaviour. Clear on his goals, he’s now more human than before.

#3 Plot

Matt asserted that one of the key subplots in the book made my protagonist unlikeable. He then suggested an alternative, saving Thom from the hate he would possibly receive from readers. As I struggled with this particular subplot in my earlier edits – somehow knowing it would ruin the book – I’m grateful Matt saw a way to change it without altering it completely. What I once couldn’t resolve, has now found a resolution – what a relief!

#4 Magic

Talk about cliche, Matt stated that the appearance of magic in The Slave Prince was over done. The white tree in a snowy cave reminded him of A Song of Ice and Fire and Lord of the Rings. He advised me to change the entire scene. And, after much re-imagining, I did. The white tree, rooted in snow, no longer exists in the book – a new, more awesome scene, has taken its place. But don’t worry, this post contains #nospoilers.

#5 Language

Both in dialogue and prose, Matt pointed out that the language I used was sometimes anachronistic. To align the writing to a medieval setting, I was told to remove modern day phrases and words. Idioms such as ‘throwing in the towel’ and words like ‘awkward’ didn’t belong. And so backspaced I went… on all of them.

So, what does developmental editing entail?

I hope these five points helped you understand the fundamentals. Of course, what you’ve just read is merely surface level – what I can share without spoiling the story. There was more in Matt’s dev letter, including additional suggestions on how to add value to the book. And aside from his comments, Matt also worked with me on a rewrite outline to address the present issues. It’s safe to say, developmental editing made The Slave Prince a denser book – it helped build three-dimensional characters, and establish a richer and fuller world.

The next question you’d probably ask is if developmental editing is worth undergoing. Well, if you have a publisher, it’s usually a part of the publishing deal. If you don’t, and are on a tight budget, candid beta readers can sometimes act as dev editors. But if you have the funds, getting a professional dev editor is advisable. You might need to spend 56 hours rewriting – like I did – but you’ll end up with a better book.

Do note, that approaching any form of editing requires a realisation that editors exist to help you. You may be offended by their claims – it’s normal, your book is your baby – but know that their honesty will make it better. And hey, if you don’t like their suggestions, it’s fine! You don’t have to incorporate their ideas – dev editors cannot force you to do anything. But sleeping on their words will definitely help. After all, it’s their job to see things you cannot see and work toward fixing them.

With all that said, I’m excited for my next stage of editing. Matt is currently reading my rewrite. And if he thinks I’ve tackled the issues well, The Slave Prince will enter copy editing! Having gone through copy editing before, with The Battle for Oz, I know what to expect. One can only hope I’ve improved in skill that will result in a swift pass.

Now, to plug my book! If this post has piqued your curiosity, click HERE to learn more about The Slave Prince. Then, consider joining over 300 other readers as they become the first to receive the book before it hits the shelves! That would make you so very cool… in my starry dreamer eyes.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 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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The Art of Handling Rejection

I’ve ran two crowd-funding campaigns, pitched multiple books to publishers, and I’m now on a hunt for an agent. It’s safe to say, at this point of time, I’m immune to rejection. Really – it doesn’t elicit any response from me. In fact, it makes me happy – it’s a relief to encounter rejection. Because rejection is better than silence… and rejection means there’s one less reject in the duration of my quest. But, is there an art in handling rejection?

How does one define art – how does one grade the quality of art? Why are some pieces higher in value, while others are sold cheap in the market place? Why are splats of paint hanging in a gallery, while the strokes of a picturesque countryside are left in an attic? What determines art? Perspective – art is about perspective.

So back to the question: is there an art in handling rejection? Yes – perspective.

I like to look at rejection in the perspective of a job seeker. You see, when you’re looking for a job, you don’t expect a callback from every company you apply to. And for the few that invite you to an interview, there’s no guarantee they’d hire you. Even if you nail the tough questions, you might be rejected. Fortunately, you’re well aware of this. If you’re not, you’ll soon realise it’s reality – you’ll apply, you’ll receive a few calls, and you’ll be rejected. But, you’ll eventually find the one. And in the midst of the hunt – in need of survival – you have no time to think about your rejections. You move quickly to the next opportunity, because an opportunity matters more.

With this perspective, does a rejection really matter? Should you give it more than a second of your day? No, because there’s another opportunity waiting. And if you don’t seize that opportunity, you’ll never know if it’s the one.

Just like art, the art of handling rejection is about perspective. How much weight you give each ‘thanks, but no thanks’ is determined by its importance in your perception. If it is of little significance, you won’t be fazed. If you focus on the opportunities, you won’t linger in the past. So, how are you perceiving rejection? Are you giving it more time than you should? Are you letting it blear your future?

During both my crowd-funding campaigns, I was under 3 months of stress. I hustled everyone I knew. And the more I hustled, the more rejections I received. But despite being upset, I couldn’t dwell on each rejection. In order for The Battle for Oz and The Slave Prince to succeed, I needed to find someone who’d support me. I couldn’t waste time convincing those who wouldn’t, because I hadn’t convinced those who haven’t. Thankfully, despite rejection being a part of my journey, it didn’t change the fact that both my books were a success.

Having experienced waves of rejection, I know its value – it amounts to little when you’re desperate. It has no hold over your passion. And its presence will not affect the outcome. The only thing that rejection does is make you stronger – you’ll be bolder and more determined than before. And despite its negative connotation, experiencing it is a good thing.

Today, I embrace rejection. I’m unafraid of it’s daunting shadow, gladly welcoming it in my life. It has taught me to focus on my passion. It has made my dreams worth chasing. And the more opportunities I seek – the more rejections I face – the closer I’ll be to my goal. That’s my perception – my art… of handling rejection.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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