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Brian J. W. Lee is a writer. When he's not writing, he's plotting to plunge the world in a deep chasm of terror, darkness and screams. Sorry, did I get carried away?

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

An Introduction to Pulau Purba, Chapter 4: Reaching Nirvana

After returning from Pulau Purba- I mean Brunei, I was amped up, full of creative energy. Where others regenerate by taking a long holiday, I learnt that a writer's retreat (or writer's residence, depending on how you want to call it) was all I need.

So, I returned home with an 80,000 words manuscript. You'd figure that I was nearly done with the novel, right? Well, I thought so too.

If I remember correctly, The Keeper of Pulau Purba, as it is now titled, threw me a curveball in its plot. Funny how I phrased it. The Keeper is the main antagonist and puppeteer of the novel. And she wouldn't relent. No, she won't be defeated so easily.

The heroes in the novel were supposed to escape, but they were thrown right back in. They'd have to find another way out. The second act of the novel had to be lengthened, and the third act delayed.

But my writing speed wasn't a problem... The deadline for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2015 was. I had to hand it in within 2 months at the latest.

It wasn't a problem, I remember thinking then. So week after week, I wrote my 1,000 words a day, sometimes a little more. But the story kept going, never ending.

By the time I reached 120,000 words, I was panicking. I'd opened Pandora's Box. More creatures were pouring out. The Keeper turned out to be tough to overcome. I should have known, considering that she is a descendant, a spiritual successor of H. P. Lovecraft's Cosmic Gods.

Necessity is the mother of invention. In my case, a tight deadline is a recipe of heroic feats. As the deadline closed in on me with knives in hand and there appeared to be no end in sight for my novel, I started writing faster, and faster.

Until I was going at double speed on most days. I remember writing up to 3,000 or 4,000 words a day in the final chapters.

I had reached the Nirvana of writing in the final days. Somehow, 4,000 words, I remember, felt effortless - Writing is my passion, and near the end, I especially liked what I was writing. It was a bright, sunny day outside the window behind my desk, and my surviving characters had finally entered into the light, both literally and figuratively.

I remember concluding my novel a day or two from the deadline. 150,000 words. I had written 70,000 words in two months. I spent the little time I had left doing a few minor edits, and printing it out for submission.

I would go on to utterly lose the EBFP2015. There was no chance in hell that I could win - Considering that I had handed in a first draft with nearly no edits. But in the end, it didn't matter. I had completed my first novel. And it felt real, it felt like something I would dare to publish in over a decade since I started out as a lonely, awkward boy scribbling on an exercise book.

And you will get to see it, come hell or high winter, this year.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Writing Report #8: Inspiration Strikes

This writing report is for Tuesday (30/08/2016)

I decided to do a quickie. Some good progress today. I scanned through the last page or Monday's editing, made some good changes, and I went on to edit another two more chapters. Still way behind schedule though.

But before I go to sleep today, I went back to my computer again. I didn't want to edit, but I just needed to double-check a few things. Basically, the whole affair with Nimble Writer deleting 8 days of progress got me rattled up. I wanted to see if the changes I made in previous drafts from 2 to 6 were retained.

I think they were. Writing's too pristine.

But that's not the point. I went through a very pivotal scene and chapter of my book. It's like staring into the eyes of a Siren, I couldn't look away, and I couldn't shut out the music from my ears. I enjoyed it, even after 6 drafts. That's a good sign, right?

But an even better sign was that I went ahead and edit it. It wasn't a long chapter, as quality was the name of the game in this one - Its success or failure hung on the fate of an important character. That's another chapter out of the way, though I'll probably check it out again.

It think I've improved on it, on the action. I could be wrong though. It wouldn't hurt to have another go at it in the future.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Writing Report #7: Surviving

This writing report is for Saturday (27/08/2016), Sunday (28/08/2016) and Monday (29/08/2016).

Self-editing is said to be much tougher than writing. This is especially true, I feel, the more skilled you are. While I won't believe that I am extraordinarily skilled in writing until I see people actually buy, read and praise my writing, I'm starting to feel that way with the recent turn of events.

My previous drafts were easy to produce - I didn't make any significant changes. A grammar fix there, a rephrasing here. These days, in producing draft 7 and making wide, sweeping changes, I can't help but to feel a little traumatised and at the same time emancipated. On one hand, I'm cutting my darling up like a depraved maniac, and on the other hand, I'm making my darling more beautiful. Masochistic much?

But what is worse is that I had to do it all over again on Saturday, after mourning the loss of some 8 days of progress. My strategy has changed though:

- I'm starting where I last left off, except for the part where I cut out an entire chapter of some nearly 4,000 words and cannibalising some of the contents for the next chapter for a net loss of 3,500 words or more.

- I will focus on making huge progress in the weekends or even weekdays, to make up for lost time.

- Stick to the schedule. If I can't double back to the first 14 chapters before I run out of time, I will leave their fates in the hands of my proofreader. Best I can do is to have a crunch day or a few crunch days to make up for lost progress.

- I will be dumping my day job's annual leave on the week I am supposed to turn in my draft to a proofreader, to accommodate the above and head into the breach.

With that in mind, I spent Saturday working as hard as possible, but ultimately failing to make a dent on my 'behind-schedule' status. Two chapters were edited, though it's a matter of perspective. One was cut and the other absorbed the cut chapter. The cannibal-chapter was fully edited.

Sunday was where I shined. Four chapters edited. It was easier when I was getting closer to the mid-point of the novel, as this was where my writing matured and looked better. Which is not good. I have to keep this in mind when I go back to the first quarter of the chapter. Gotta make my first impression with the readers count.

Monday was where I under-performed... Again! I was barely able to edit one chapter. Towards the back, I started falling asleep. Would have to go back to the last page and edit it again. Note to self: Buy mints.

As it stands, this is my progress so far: I have 17 days to edit about 40 chapters... Plus redo the editing that was lost on 14 chapters at the front. That's slightly more than 3 chapters I need to do per day. Crunch time is definitely required if I want to get everything right.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

An Introduction to Pulau Purba, Chapter 3: Rural Country Writing

Note: I made an edit on 01/09/2016. I wrote 80,000 words by the end of my Brunei writer's retreat/writer's residence, not 90,000. It's an estimate, but I remember clearly writing more than 1,000 words a day sometimes but not enough in total - Forcing me to writer far more than usual when I get back home to Singapore.

Where I last left off, I was talking about how the novel came to be, and I promised to go on talking about how I went about writing it after the initial push of 15,000 words in a month.

Now, 15,000 words a month might look like a lot, but even by minimal professional standards, is a slack-job. That pretty much amounts to about 500 words a day, something that could easily be done in half an hour or an hour tops if you hadn't broken a hand or something.

Stephen King prescribed 2,000 words a day, in addition to daily reading and other rituals. I've tried 2,000 words a day, and it just wasn't my speed... Yet. I guess I wasn't at ol' King's level, as expected. No, after the failure that was my first month, I prescribed a thousand, and intended to keep to it, by nook or by crook.

And I'd been planning for it. The causes for substandard performances could be many things - environment, people, writing equipment, yourself... I decided to narrow down the causes by flying to Brunei. The plan was to write - Just write there for two months.

I brought only the following:

- $1,000 for sustenance, and maybe some R&R. I ended up buying lots of snacks, some books (Stephen King can be found even in Brunei), some movies, peripherals to watch the movies. Everything was horror, for inspiration.

- My writing laptop and required peripherals. There are no games in it, until I started downloading a few from Steam one month in when I realised I was stressing myself too much. Still, the poor specs of the laptop ensures that I was only playing simple, pixelised games, so I wasn't too distracted.

- A Book. Stephen King's Desperation in particular. It occupied me for a month, and I'd just move on to buy more of his books when I was finished. Most importantly, it served as inspiration.

- The usual travelling stuff - Clothes, undies, toiletry kit. Still important not to neglect yourself or your writing will be neglected.

I was also given the following:

- Most important thing: Shelter. I was with my relatives, who gave me a room, fed me three meals a day. It's all I can ask for. It's basically like a clan-sponsored writers-in-residence program. Heh.

- Basic internet. Network was poor in Brunei. I ended up blowing something like $200 on internet access alone, until I decided to hook in with my cousins. Stupid of me - But I guess being very new to writing meant I haven't gotten rid of some of my pride yet. This would later be instrumental to my sanity, as it meant I was able to download some simple games to unwind with.

- Company. My relatives, their acquaintances and friends made up the bulk of my social encounters. I guess it's important for my sanity, though I'm starting to wonder if I'd sell better if my book contains the ravings of a mad man?

- (cont.) Anyway, people could go both ways. In this case, it did went both ways. I ended up getting into arguments with some of them, who act the part of a bunch of traditionalist, hyper-religious backwoods people. Most of them are fine though, being non-stereotypes who brought me around the country. The inspiration gained here from the good and bad could serve to provide me with novel ideas for years to come. In fact, I already have one: Traditionalist, hyper-religious backwoods cultists in rural country who decided to sacrifice their own relative for an Old One. Hah.

The result? Something like 65,000 words done, slightly more than the usual 1,000 words a day. The factors impeding my writing: Environment and people, were identified spot on.

But the novel was far from finished, even at 80,000 words.

In the next chapter of 'An Introduction to Pulau Purba', I wrap up the writing process that birthed 'The Keeper of Pulau Purba'. And then I'll move on to the world of Pulau Purba itself.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Writing Report #6: Disaster!

This writing report is for Thursday (25/08/2016) and Friday (26/08/2016).

On Thursday, I was barely able to edit a single chapter. So I became 3 chapters behind schedule.

But that doesn't even compare to what happened yesterday, on Friday. Oh my good God it doesn't.

I switched on my computer only to find my file rolled back by 8 days! That means about 14 edited chapters gone! And something like 42,000 words edited regressed to the previous draft!

... Sigh ...

Let's just say I'm definitely going to find a new word processor. Something had been screwy with Nimble Writer ever since the upgrade to Windows 10. As mentioned in a previous post, I couldn't rename my chapters easily, and now my story is in danger of regressing like it's in a bad sci-fi movie about animals and humans regressing into earlier stages of evolution. Good God.

Throughout this entire year, I had done some search on other word processors, both out of curiosity and, more recently, out of a need to swap out my equipment, and I've come to realised that I'm actually spoilt for choice. Other than Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, LibreOffice, there's like a dozen or more to choose from!

I just hadn't weaned myself out of Nimble Writer these past few months. Why? I guess it's out of habit. Like how George R. R. Martin's still using Wordstar. Maybe... Heck, maybe it might even be a misguided loyalty to Nimble Writer and the man who made it.

In fact, this kinda opened my eyes to how I've been neglecting a fundamental part of the writer's arsenal. Sure, a writer's own wit and skill in the craft is the most important thing. Sure, discipline and habit should be maintained.

But there's one other thing that could also make or break a writer: His equipment. Same as how a soldier would be severely limited by his weapons, the writer could also be limited by his writing apparatuses. It sure is the reason why I chose not to use Microsoft Word or LibreOffice to write my novel. How can I be so blind!

First, the word processor. Then, there's this very computer that I am writing on now. A S$299 HP Stream. Its screen is small, its keyboard is small, and its specs are humble. It lags when I use Chrome and it lags when I tried to do what it says on the tin: Stream videos on Youtube. I gotta upgrade that too. Not to stream videos or play games, of course, but for the guarantee that I won't be distracted by limitations of the hardware to write.

Indeed, thinking back, I remember how anxious I feel about writing on this tiny little thing. Hah... Funny how I managed to complete my novel on an even smaller writing laptop. This current laptop is 15" in measurement. My previous one was something like 13".

Well, I guess that's that. Enough rambling. So basically: Upgrade my damn hardwares!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Writing Report #5: Big Changes & Behind Schedule

 This writing report is for Monday (22/08/2016), Tuesday (23/08/2016) and Wednesday (24/08/2016).

When I started the week with the usual editing of two chapters on Monday, I wasn't expecting anything special for the rest of the week. Until Tuesday, when I had an epiphany. I felt like a real writer once more, after inevitably feeling jaded by the amount of changes I had to make during editing even after so many drafts.

Funny how more changes in the editing process saved me from turning into a jade stone. Basically, I made a saving change to the novel's title, which is covered in my previous post, and I have executed successfully, I believe, the complete removal of a chapter I deemed superfluous.

My manuscript is now 3,750 words shorter, which means the resulting novel, if in print and standard-sized, will be 15 pages shorter. It will cost $5 less to get it professionally edited. But like a man on a weight-loss regime (oddly resembling me... Yeah, I'm a little overweight), it went ahead and gained perhaps 250 to 300 more words in the  next chapter.

But it's all a matter of course. The contents of the deleted chapter can't be entirely committed to the void. I summarised it and placed it in the subsequent chapter. In the end, it was still necessary for one of the character's development, however minor the role is.

This happened on Tuesday and Wednesday. The downside for such a massive action is that I'm now 2 chapters behind schedule. The one chapter head start I gave myself was absorbed yesterday.

I've also learnt that Nimble Writer is no longer the best word processor for me anymore. For all its nifty features and intuitive UI, it had a major flaw that exacerbated an already tedious task.

The deletion of a chapter meant renumbering all subsequent chapters. All 45 or so of them. I had to right click, click on rename and renumber the chapters one at a time. But that's not all, folks! Sometimes, the button refuses to work! I had to repeat the process multiple times, open and close parts of the UI to get to work - A lot of the times! In the end, I spent over an hour doing this when it should have taken like 10 minutes.

An hour could have been one or two chapters edited. I wouldn't have been behind schedule if it weren't for this.

For what it's worth. Nimble Writer has served me well up to this point. The last time I checked on steam, I had logged 350 hours on the word processor. By now it should be close to 400. I may continue to use it for some time longer, but I will be exploring other options now.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Changes to Pulau Purba After 7 Drafts

The past couple of days proved to be a turning point for me and the editing of Pulau Purba. Perhaps the most significant of them is that the title won't be Pulau Purba anymore. Yep, if somebody has to change his name, something must have hit the fan, right?

Well, the shit that hit the fan is my realisation that an English novel meant for both local and international readers may not do very well with a completely Malay title. I've posted about this in the Absolute Write forums, and a majority of my fellow writers there concur.

And one of those writers suggested a typical The Person-X of Location-Y format of title. Initially, I scoffed at this. I thought it was cheesy and overused. But after an hour or two mulling over the idea (and doing my job), I decided that it won't be so bad. It would allow me to retain my original title and make it understandable!

Pulau Purba shall henceforth be titled The Keeper of Pulau Purba, until an even better title comes along. I chose this title for numerous reasons:

- It brings the main antagonist into the limelight, which is well deserved.

- It brings context to the 'foreign' noun Pulau Purba. Alone, those Malay words are indecipherable to the English speaker, but now, with the other noun and grammar structure in place, what Pulau Purba is, is narrowed down. It's either an object or a place.

- Due to the above, and the ambiguity of the title of 'Keeper', it lends a degree of mystery to the titular things, and the novel at large. This is necessary to engage potential readers.

Another big change to The Keeper of Pulau Purba is a possible removal of at least 4000 words, about 2 chapters based on the average length of my chapters. They're simply slowing the novel down too much, pulling it down. Their contents will be condensed and absorbed by other chapters.

The majority of that wordcount reduction came from one chapter some 3,500 words long. It's basically a chapter sharing the same setting as another one, revolving around one character giving a platoon of conscripts a very long pep talk. Yeah. Not gonna work.

I think it's notable that my last major wordcount reduction exercise came from that same chapter. I removed some 500 words or more from the pep talk. Guess it wasn't enough.
It goes to show that there is always a way to improve your novel, even after 7 drafts. I hope to find more ways to cut down on the length, or to improve the novel's quality.

An Introduction to Pulau Purba, Chapter 2: Emergence

Where did we last left off? Oh right - The Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2015. I found out about it from a fellow intern at a local publishing firm (whether we can call it that is debatable, but that's a tale for another time). The problem? I found out a little late.

By the time I started writing my novel, I had about 5 months left. That wasn't the only problem. I had never completed a novel before. The last one, the precursor to Pulau Purba, crashed and burned and probably screamed like a wretched witch before it finally breathed its last (and I screamed alongside it). As if that wasn't enough, my final exams were around the corner.

My memories of those days are a little sketchy, but I remember managing only something like 15,000 words in a month before I took a drastic step that I had been planning since before the end of my exams. 15,000 was an optimistic estimate.

But that initial push into writing costed me dearly - I expended the remainder of my energy, for I was tired from my 4th year of grinding the academic stone, and I nearly had to retain a semester because I stayed up late to write, as a result misinterpreted my exam schedule and was very late for my last paper (2 hours late!).

Before I move on with my writing adventure, let's talk about Pulau Purba like I'm supposed to, eh?

I didn't start out by thinking, 'Gee, my old novel-in-progress was a waste, let's turn it into something worthwhile!' No, I wasn't good enough to do that yet. Instead, I sat down and thought about what could constitute a breakthrough in Singaporean literature - After all, I've been studying literature for four years, might as well put what I learnt to good use, right?

I had known about the tendencies of the Singaporean literary scene for a while. The local publishers are almost always publishing historical fiction, or contemporary fiction. Or non-fiction. Almost everything has something to do with politics, and are almost always social critiques at their core.

None of those things are what I wanted to do. Post-colonial literature was never my cup of tea. Neither was it 99.99% of the world population's cup of tea. So I decided: Why not take the next step? Pop culture, mass media came after the business of writing essays, non-fictions and manifestos on how we should live and define ourselves. Pop culture and mass media could do that, and more!

Then there's the personal level. What do I want to write? A little soul-searching revealed the truth. I've been a big fan of Stephen King for more than a decade. I love my horror stories, movies and video games. So why not join the horror scene?

The contents of my novel? 'Write what you know', Stephen King advises. So I decided to base my story in Singapore, and around topics that really mattered to me. Conscription. The problems of putting young men in the army whether they like it or not. And other related issues. I wanted the 'Triple A' treatment. I wanted it to be big, so I decided to involve not just a few characters, but entire military units, bases, islands, ships, the nation at stake, hell, everything at stake!

I remember reading a lot of ghost stories set in Singapore, and a good share of them in the camps and forests of the military. I figured, I could bring those folk stories and campfire tales to the next level too.

The result: A Military-Horror genre novel inspired by Stephen King, H. P. Lovecraft and local stories that does just as much to talk about relevant issues of the present day, intended to be mainstream and accessible to most people while at the same time entertaining (I hope).

The precursor novel wasn't absorbed by Pulau Purba until I was in the middle of the novel, when I incorporated a few chapters from it, completely rewritten however.

In the next episode of 'An Introduction to Pulau Purba', we move on to the rest of Pulau Purba's writing process.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 21 August 2016

An Introduction to Pulau Purba, Chapter 1: The History, The Army, and Silent Hill

Finally, the day has come! I've been putting it off for far to long, but I think a little peek into what I've been working on is in order.

The title of the book is Pulau Purba. It is Malay for something roughly translating to Island of the Ancients, or Ancient Island. I've leave you to decide which one is it. I'm not going to spoil anything :)

The genesis of the idea for this book goes way, way back. It dated back to the years just before I was due to be dragged into conscription. 'Enlisted into National Service', they call it. A pretty way of saying that you're getting press-ganged into the army.

Pic 2: Not as glamorous as it looks.

It was nearly a decade ago. I was 18, pushing 19 then. For a year during and after polytechnic, I was nervous and fearing the worse. I needed an outlet, and it came in the form of a childhood hobby I had - Writing. I was also a bit of a videogame connoisseur (I play games that aren't always mainstream), and I was influenced by Silent Hill.

So what came out was a main character who is almost like me, rotting in a military bunk - Until the world changed, the main character entering some kind of an 'Otherworld' that was filled with monsters. I remember writing a tonne of words. Maybe 50,000 to 60,000.

Pic 3: Now imagine those miserable conscripts fighting this thing.

I wrote it fast... And then stopped for a good long while. At that time, I couldn't understand why I didn't want to continue it. But in retrospect, I knew exactly why. It was just about an antsy 18-year-old trying to get out of a hell-world army camp, a world that reflected his fears and memories of being in NS. There was no plot, no story, not even supporting characters. The monsters were simple, nothing new in their design even by average genre standards. Basically, it's so bad that some of them are little more than zombies.

I remember continuing the 'novel' when I was in the army. The quality improved marginally - I added characters based on conscripts/soldiers I met in camp, including one who had mental issues, and was constantly harassed and bullied. But the story's the same.

The big problem was, all those new, shiny stuff were added below my teenage scribblings. It's become like those rings in a tree trunk, or ancient layers of sediment in the ground. I had next to no editing skills and I couldn't blend the new and the old together. It wasn't something even I would read.

By the time I got out of the army and entered university, I'd trashed the whole God damn abomination... Pun possibly intended.

The idea was left largely frozen in my mind for most of my university stint, as I was too busy reading other people's work (I majored in English Literature) or writing stuff that would please the writers-in-residence (I minored in Creative Writing). It wasn't until the Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2015 that I decided to take it seriously again.

Writing Report #4: Ahead of Schedule

 This writing report is for Friday (19/08/2016), Saturday (20/08/2016) and Sunday (21/08/2016).

I had been busy for the past 3 days. On Friday, I was out teaching tuition and on Saturday, I was out celebrating my friend's graduation. It was only today that I get to take a break and do my edits.

Despite coming home at only around 9pm on Friday, I was able to stay on schedule and edit 2 chapters of Pulau Purba. I was dead tired though by the end of it, and I avoided Voice-Editing for the last few paragraphs. Still, discipline pulled me through.

That's the life of a writer - At the end of the day, you work when others play, and all for what? For a story that people may not like, for a novel that may not sell. With me, the risks were elevated. It would be my debut novel, and the genre I write in, horror, isn't exactly the biggest market right now. The length of my novel worried me. Few writers could debut as authors with a 'doorstopper'. Why should I? All I have for fuel was the belief that some might find that length is not a barrier to a good story.

Anyway, before I mutter on in a grandfather story... On Saturday, I was back home, once again, quite late - I believe at around the same time as on Friday. I was out celebrating a friend's graduation, dining at a Sushi restaurant. I traveled all the way across the island for that. I was beat, and I completed only a single chapter's edit.

But Sunday was my free day, and I took advantage of it, and more. The best part was that it wasn't even straining. I edited on and off throughout the entire day, and felt less tired than on weekdays. I edited a whopping 4 chapters, making up for Saturday, completing on schedule, except I managed to squeeze in another chapter.

Okay, a promise to myself and you guys. I will tease no further and introduce my daughter, Pulau Purba, tomorrow.

Time to go to bed. Tomorrow is a new day.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Writing Report #3: New Standards

This writing report is for the day before yesterday and yesterday, which would be Wednesday (17/08/2016) and Thursday (18/08/2016).

The last couple of days mark the beginning of my journey to make a final authorial edit on Pulau Purba (Wow, I still haven't introduced her to you guys, have I?). It'd also marked my first use of what I call Voice-Editing. I'm not sure if there's an official term for it. I'll go into that in a minute.

Before I started editing, I had to set my goals. Based on my self-publishing game plan, I will need my book out in at least 2 months. I am willing to spend one of that month making my own edits. I have about 64-65 chapters covering over 158,000 words.

Therefore, I decided on a 2-chapters-a-day daily goal, with the excess chapters to be edited on crunch days - Days that I happened to be in the mood to do more work than usual.

So, on Wednesday, I cracked the bottle on my editing battle cruiser and went on my merry way... And promptly jinxed myself by falling asleep after editing only 1 chapter! The only excuse I have is that the prologue chapter is twice the length of the regular chapter in my book, but it would be unbecoming for a disciplined writer to find an excuse!

So on Thursday, I made up for it by editing the next 3 chapters of my book. Now I'm on track. I'm thinking of ramping up the speed if I can, so that I can focus on the matter of the subtitles, blurb, synopsis/summary, foreword, dedication, author notes... Basically everything else that to do with the more copy-writey or technical stuff.

Okay, back to this thing I call Voice-Editing. Previously, I would edit with that voice in my head reading, or something no voice reading at all when I'm in the zone, doing it a little faster - My normal editing technique is very cerebral, logical. I look out for the mechanics of the story, and whether I am adhering to the rules of the language (that would be proofreading).

With Voice-Editing, I actually read my own novel. Literally. I have a tenant in my home, and I worry he might think I'm Norman Bates or something.

Pic 1: No, I don't look like that when I'm editing.

But the result of this is that I get to examine my writing on another level: Coherence and harmony. It is almost like working with poetry or speech, or heck, music. I did try my best right from the beginning to make my writing as fluent and smooth-sounding as possible - I had bad experiences with attending an open mic session with writing that sounded terrible when read.

What triggered me to do this is me thinking, Gee, I wonder if my novel would make a great audiobook?

Basically, it hit me that I have no guarantee it will. In other words, voice editing is going to pay off in the long run.

Otherwise, in the more mundane aspects of proofreading and editing, I've shaved off plenty of mistakes, weird kinks and made a few changes here and there that I think improved the overall quality of the novel.

I'm still thinking of how I can bring down the word count a little. Can my novel even be cut down at all? I'm starting to doubt it. Maybe I just suck at it. I did went over the word limit for my Final Year Project in university too, by something like 30%!

Hmm... Next promise I make to myself. Try editing 3 chapters a day. It will cut the time spent down by at least a week and a half.

Brian, over and out.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016


Yesterday, I was sitting on a crossroad of publishing choice. And yes, I have decided to go the self-publishing route.

The two options are:

  • Keep working on my short story collection, wait until it is done, edited and ready for publication before going all out. Publish my novel after my short stories.
  • Halloween is on 31st October, which is about two and a half months away. I publish my novel before that date and work towards a promotion before, during and after Halloween. Publish my short story collection after that to boost sales of the novel, and to get noticed.

I've decided to go with the latter option. Thus, my goals have changed to accommodate this. Here's the game plan:

16 Aug 16 - 15 Sep 16

  • Produce a final draft for publication.

16 Sep 16 - 17 Oct 16

  • Get a professional editor to proofread my work. Make changes according to his recommendations.

18 Oct 16 - 31 Oct 16 (Up to 30 Nov 16)

  • Date of publication on all chosen platforms.

  • Commencement of Halloween promotions.

Goals to be done before 18 Oct 16

  • Finalise all the tiny things: Title is done, but explore possibilities for subtitle, pen name. Final draft of synopsis/blurb, dedication, maybe a foreword and introduction.

  • Commission a cover, and any required artwork.

  • Build up social media infrastructure: Facebook, Twitter, blog, Absolute Write, Goodreads, etc.

  • Finalise publishing platforms: Draft2Digital or something else?

  • Finalise promotional plans, what platforms to use and what strategy...
The next 3 months is going to be hectic, but interesting and exciting! It's hard to imagine that I'm going to join the great conversation! To be an author (if I manage to sell some books)! For too long I've lingered in complete obscurity. The 1st year anniversary of the completion of Pulau Purba has already passed, and so did the 1st year anniversary of my graduation from the university that improved my writing ability.

It's time I make it happen.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Writing Report #2: The Return

This writing report is for yesterday (Tuesday), which is 16/08/2016 (DD/MM/YYYY).

Basically, I've made some edits on my previous short story, which I tentatively name Project Sesame Seeds. 150 words were added to it. Something needs to really be said about my editing style. As a rule, I seem to generally keep adding words where others would work on deleting them. It isn't something to do with the length of the piece either.

Pulau Purba stood at something like 140,000 words. After 7 rounds of editing, it is now over 150,000 words. Project Sesame Seeds went from just over 5,000 to maybe 5,500 or slightly above.

Have no fear though! Just recently, and by that I meant in something like a month or two ago, I identified a whole chunk of superfluous prose and deleted them on Pulau Purba, which should amount to about 500 to 700 words, but that's a start.

I need to work on simplifying sentences where and when I can.

The major bulk of my work yesterday went into Project Agoraphobe. Something like over 1,000 words. This short story is easy to do when it comes to churning out volumes. The story is set in a 22nd century Singapore, so there's a lot of world building - And world building comes easy when it is grounded in reality, even if that reality is over a century behind in 'history'.

In other words, I have surpassed my 1,000 words per day rule. I am back into the game, yee-hah!

I believe my theory on speed of writing holds merit, as I noticeably slow down when I focus in on my character and her plot. They're like speed bumps, but no, I'm not implying that Reyda, the protagonist, is a hindrance to the dystopian tale. It's necessary to slow down at times.

Not every author believes in writing as fast as you can, looking at the numbers. But even amongst authors who do, quality is still paramount. Just ask their publishers and editors, yeah, they'll know. There's a reason why it's hard to get into trade publishing.

So yes, I'm trying to do the logically impossible - Quality AND Quantity. But I'm sure, we writers are used to impossible ideas. We put them down on the page every time.

P.S: I'll be coming up with posts that aren't writing reports soon.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Writing Report #1: Exhaustion

This post is dedicated to Isaac Cheong, a friend of many years, a fellow writer, a fellow man who wants to contribute to Singapore's fledgling culture. No, he's not dead yet. What makes you think he is? :-) (And no, I'm not going to kill him.)

This writing report is for last Sunday and this Monday, from 14/08/2016 to 15/08/2016 (DD/MM/YYYY)

Ever since starting up this blog, I made some extra efforts into going back to writing, like tackling it head on rather than doing it only whenever I felt like it. Discipline is what separates people who're simply scribbling for fun and those who call themselves writers.

I am still not at 100% yet, however.

On Sunday, I was only able to come up with something like 350 to 500 words. The only consolation is that it was from polishing and improving a short story I have.

Yesterday (Monday), I went on with my work on a new short story, a Dystopian sci-fi set in 22nd century Singapore. 750 words. The funny thing was that I did it in office, when I had nothing left to do. Actually, this post is currently being written in office too. But anyway, it would have been more than 1,000 words had I not fallen prey to the worse nemesis any writer must face...


Yep, I planned to continue writing at home, so I climbed in bed with my writing laptop while the drying machine was chugging with my clothes inside. I switched it on, tried to boot up Steam and Nimble Writer (my choice word processor). I couldn't get the latter to work for some reason and put my head to the pillow in frustration. It was 11:30pm

Next thing I knew, it was 2:30am in the morning (or midnight). Holy hell, whatta time travel!

So I guess the moral of the story is to lie down on a bed of iron spikes if you want to write while you're on your back. Oh no, wait - That wouldn't work either. You'd probably pass out due to blood loss.

From now on, I'm going to consider doing it while upright on an armchair, and not so late.

Discipline. It is what separates scribblers from writers.

1,000 words today, a promise to myself

Sunday, 14 August 2016

A New Beginning - An Introduction

For the better part of 4 years, this blog has been languishing in negligence and ignored. Simply put it, it lacked purpose, and that pretty much caused its downfall even before it could thrive.

Well, not anymore. I've decided to blog again, and this time, I have a very real purpose.

I am a writer. I have been a writer ever since I was about 12 or 13, before I even knew it. I am 27 now, and counting. For much of this time, I was just playing around, experimenting with all kinds of genres and styles, and not really thinking about publishing, until last year.

In other words, I had been practicing the art of writing for 13 to 14 years, and I thought I could come up with that one novel that could be my debut piece. It was a novel for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2015. The deadline? 4 months away (maybe more, I can't quite remember). I sacrificed much for it - though I'm not afraid to admit it, I am a little ashamed.

I started writing two weeks before my final exams last year, around May, and even on the eve of my last day of exams. I screwed myself over - Too tired and too dazed, and I was late for my exams for something like 2 hours because I read my schedule the wrong way.

I spent the next 2 months after that, writing overseas in Brunei, and then another 2 months rushing the project to completion.

If you click that link, you'll notice who the winner of the EBFP2015 is, and no, I'm not O Thiam Chin. Although I found it suspicious that the only writers who benefited were all previously published authors (the competition is said to be for finding new blood), and I feel a little used to buff up the statistics (Hey, this author defied the odds and won against X number of writers!), but in the end, it truly wasn't meant to be.

My novel was rushed, especially towards the end when I had to crank out 2,000 to 4,000 words a day. It wasn't polished as I didn't even have the time to produce a second draft.

Ever since I was bitten hard by that defeat, I hadn't really been able to recover. I produced another 6 more drafts of the novel, only to be rejected (this would be my 7th rejection) by another local publisher, on grounds of differing stylistic/aesthetic opinions which divided the editorial team.

Pulau Purba was that novel. I'll introduce her to you guys on another day.

But back to the present day - I had been working on short stories since, hoping to produce an anthology that might have a better chance to sell.

I hadn't been able to write as much as I used to - to the tune of 1,000 words a day back in the day, because of a combination of my grinding day job, the lack of confidence from repeated defeats, and life just generally sucking in 2016 (long story).

But with this blog post, that will all change. I am committed - I will be putting up reports of my writing in this blog from now on, maybe daily, maybe weekly, but every single day will be covered.

I hope that you will accompany me on this journey... Beyond the veil of darkness.

Because you see, I do horror - Did my blog design give that away? It's too late to turn back now. :)