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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, 30 November 2016

Writing Report S2 #25: Good Days

This Writing Report is for the dates 28th November 2016 to 30th November 2016, which is Monday to Wednesday.

It's been good so far this week. I've managed 700 words on Monday, 650 on Tuesday, and a whooping 1,350 on Wednesday. The reason for this is a sudden drop-off in workload at the office. With my duties quickly finished, I was able to concentrate on my writing.

The result is another short story finished. It's about time. It was in development since long before my novel was out, so that means it's been hanging around in limbo for 4 months when its length requires only about a week to complete. The reason for its developmental hell is because I kinda dropped it to work on editing my novel before publishing it - As some of you may know, I had to keep editing my debut novel even after it was published.

Well, it's all history now. Agoraphobe is now officially a Draft 1! As such, I think I should celebrate by telling you guys about it:

It's basically a short story set in a 22nd century Singapore, in which the government there has been continuing on its policies unabated for over a century. The result is a severely overcrowded world. Every infrastructure a metropolis needs, be it transportation, housing, policing and the law, are coping but with quality of life suffering. We see this world from the perspective of a downtrodden waitress going about her daily routine, which takes a turn for the worse.

It turned out to be almost 7877 words long. I projected it to be 7000. Can't complain. That's about 32 pages long. It feels just about right. Length is no indication of quality, that's for sure.

Can't wait to work on the next story. I have a few ideas bouncing around in my head, looking to breach through my skull and land on a page. I'll keep you guys updated on what I'm working on next.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Writing Report S2 #24: Slow Climb

This Writing Report is for the dates ranging from 23rd of November to 27th of November (Wednesday to Sunday).

I've been making a slow climb back to my previous rate of writing and editing. Last week, I was either writing or editing, not both, and I haven't hit the 1000 words/day (writing) or 2 chapters/day (editing) standard I've set for myself yet, but I've got a feeling that this week is going to be different.

The excitement at my workplace has died down, and my physical exertions are going to be minimal as next week would be the army channel (heh). I've just written about 700 words in office today as I waited for my duties to surface.

I will probably edit one chapter today, which would mean exceeding the minimum I've set for myself. Editing-wise though, I will never exceed a chapter a day. Let's just say my editor's a little busy with Thanksgiving and Christmas. She'd be engaging in a different craft than editing. A nativity play (heh).

Anyway, let's hope this is the start of my return to my writing norm.

But I know I'll do more than that soon, because I've got news. I'll soon be relieved of my job, it's only a matter of when. Either end of next month or the month after that, depending on a crucial decision I must make.

Once I've been freed from wage slavery (at least momentarily), I'll be going for a second writer's trip, which will probably last for a month. It will be for my second book, a collection of short stories (and flash fiction, and poetry, yes, right, maybe). I predict that I will be able to finish much of the book in that span of time, given that I managed 1000 words a day with some bonus once in a while in my last 2-months-long writing trip.

Now that I'm seasoned with a 'lighter' project to work on, I think I can manage 1500 - 2000 a day. Even if I managed only the former, it would mean 45,000 words. Adding to the stuff I'd already completed and will finish in December, that'd pretty much add up to a completed draft 1. I'm aiming for 100,000 words this time, and this is what I've accomplished thus far:

Sesame Seeds: 7000 words about why you shouldn't sleep in an ant-infested house.

Window's Shadow: 800 words all dripping with children's blood.

Agoraphobe (Working Title): 6000 words filled with circuitry and implants. Projected to reach 7000 words.

University FYP (Forgot the Title): 13000 words on why you should treat your girlfriend or boyfriend well. Knowing myself, it could be edited towards something like 15000 words, but we won't count that.

Total: 27800 words.

If I write at 1000 words a day from tomorrow onwards (1 week will be expended on military service), it will give me about 26000 words.

Grand Total: 53800 words.

With Writing Trip Lower Estimate: 98800 words.

In other words, just a little nudge, and I'll reach my target.

The future seems to look a little brighter (heh).

Friday, 25 November 2016

Post-Publication Realisation

Just decided to post about a little something I realised about the condition of being a newly published author (though it's a stretch to call myself that, considering that I haven't even sold books by the thousands yet).

Back then, books were something magical to me. Every time I open one up (provided that it's good), I feel myself transported into a world, and it's ever so vibrant and colourful. Even a horror novel was vibrant and colourful in its own way.

Sure, it's the same as it had always been now, after launching my own about a month ago. But my eyes are no longer virgin, so to speak. I find myself scrutinising the writing of every author I read, regardless of fame. I find myself comparing to him or her, and sometimes I enter review mode. What's good and bad about the writing? I'd keep asking myself that.

Thinking back, I estimate that the 'corruption' began soon after I've finished my novel. I started being this way when I first began editing my book. Hyper-awareness, I suppose, for the hyper-real world.

This is both good and bad. On one hand, I believe I'll learn much faster than before when it comes to the craft of writing, due to my hyper-awareness and hyper-sensitivity to writing.  On the other, books are no longer (as) fantastical, as mystical as something that seemed to have been produced by the hands of Demi-God/desses.

Back when I was a kid who'd scribbled his first few story paragraphs outside the prompting of a teacher, that was my impression when I looked at my writing and looked at Daniel Defoe's.

Now, I realised that we are all human beings, equally full of potential, equally capable of accomplishing great things... And also equally flawed. Daniel Defoe's second and third Robinson Crusoe novels didn't exactly fly like the first one did.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Writing Report S2 #23: Decline

This Writing Report is generally for the dates from 8th November 2016 to 22nd November 2016.

I've entered a new low in terms of writing.

A lot of things have been happening that's slowing me down. I've recently had to report to camp for military matters. Even if it's just for a day, it's draining and has a cooling effect in the days before and after. Next, I have a one week training session coming up right at the start of December.

This is not to mention the fact that the reservist lifestyle forced upon me requires that I invest some time in my physical fitness, and not just health - If it's just maintaining my body, a simple regime of health food (no anorexic tendencies required!) and low-intensity exercises would have been enough.

In my day job, I've hit a peak of activities. A lot of money making potential for the company, which means I can do little to nothing in terms of writing when I'm in office. It's been a few weeks since this started, and it's draining.

And speaking of health. My right ear had become blocked by ear wax like 3 weeks ago after I started applying olive oil drops prescribed by a doctor concerned with the cleanliness of my ear canals, resulting in severe Tinnitus and partial deafness. It wasn't a pleasant experience, as I wasn't sure if it was temporary or not. It was only last Friday that I got that cleared up with a doctor and his pump. Too bad I didn't take a picture of the cylinder containing all that gunk.

The only boon to my writing life is that my tuition tenure for this year had come to an end, freeing up the weekdays. But life so far has been draining, and I've been spending more time recovering and stoning in my bed than anything.

So far, my daily routine for writing hasn't been followed through. I'm averaging a chapter a day when I'm editing The Keeper of Pulau Purba, and up to 300-700 words a day if it's writing. But that's going to change, as it did before. Especially after I'm done with editing my debut novel. I seriously need to get that out of the way first.

I hope I have better news in my next writing report. First thing I'm going to need to do is clean my own writing house up first. I'll be posting more often here, and upgrade my blog - It needs a few new rooms.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Let's Talk Writing: Why Write Horror?

Why write horror? Why write about scary stuff and horrible things when I can just talk about pink, fluffy poodles and idyllic neighbourhoods? That's a question that comes up quite often whenever I talked about my literary preoccupation.

I guess it started all the way back in my childhood. I'd seen a lot of horror flicks and read my fair share of horror books in my time. Starting with pretty tame fanfare like Mars Attack (a parody, but it has its moments) and Goosebumps (kid's stuff, but it wouldn't look like a horror book if it didn't aspire to be one) then moving on to some serious business, the likes of The Thing and Alien, then my first shot of Stephen King's bibliography, and it went downhill from there (which is a good thing).

I was a kid like any other in my younger days. I got scared easily. But what happened after the initial shock wasn't like any other path normal kids would take. I started liking it for some reason. Years later, I rationalised fear. I thought it'd toughen me up. That's in contrast to most people I've met so far, who'd chant 'why read or watch horror when real life is horrifying enough?' or the most basic response they could give- Avoiding anything resembling horror like a plague, not a word with a pale face.

Talk about masochistic pleasure. Heh. Keep the whip away please... just... not right now.

*Ahem* I guess horror with me is about as legitimate a method as any other literary genre to get to the human condition, to learn and understand yourself and the world. It's just as good a way to build character. Maybe even better in some ways. You don't toughen yourself up by reading Cinderella. The darker side of the human psyche is inaccessible in some of the more idealistic fantasies. Perhaps only shades of it could be glimpsed from other genres.

So that leads to the reasons why I write horror, other than the fact that I want to tell a good story. It's my way of doing soul-searching. Descending into the cave and Hades before emerging out. It's as much about me understanding myself as it is about trying to make people understand my position. It's a way of doing it when the topics I cover are dark and perhaps not exactly all rainbow and sunshine. Some things just can't be sugar-coated, or shouldn't be if you want to write it right.

Horror is also one of those genres that does certain things that I want right. Horror thrills like the best of them, next to its close cousin, the Thriller (surprise, surprise). It can be violent, it is allowed to screw you over, no-holds-bar style. It's often what I want and what I need in a story.

Other than that, horror is more prevalent than you think. Books of other genres can slip into the horror-mode from time to time, in some subtle ways. Adult horror - losing your loved ones or having your kid dodge death in a close shave (if even that). That's horror too. The terrible implications of a political system. That's also horror, especially when you see your civil rights slipping away a bit at a time. Going fully horror allows me to tap into all those things to the fullest. No pretensions, no beating around the bush unless it's good writing.

And if any of my explanations doesn't do it, then it's just because I love it. I like scaring the bejesus out of people. I get off on it. Way I see it, I'm handing wisdom over to them one heart attack at a time. And it's satisfying.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Writing Report S2 #22: Slow Progress

This writing report is for Saturday through to Monday (5th - 7th November 2016).

Progress is slow. Overall output is down simply because I'm a little tired of editing, and I didn't want to overtake my proofreader. It'd do no good to stress the both of us out. Basically, I've edited 2 chapters on Saturday, and 2 more on Sunday. I did nothing on Monday, not even a story. I was teaching tuition, and I simply didn't have the energy left after that. That's combined with the fact that my workload in my job has increased because it's hiring season in the schools.

Anyway, that's going to change soon enough. This is the last week I'll be teaching tuition, at least until February or March next year. The time freed up for that - About 2-3 hours, counting both tuition and travelling time, will be a valuable boon to my writing life, not so much because I'll be spending all that time writing, but because it'd decrease the pressure on me so that I can actually write and edit, what have you.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Writing Report S2 #21: Winding Up

Hey guys,

It's been a long, long time since I last did one of these, but it's all for a good reason. I'm just going to demarcate this change of circumstance by making this writing report the start of 'season 2' of my Writing Report series. All will be explained below, but for now, onto business:

This Writing Report is for 1st November 2016 and 2nd November 2016. Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

As you all know, The Keeper of Pulau Purba has been out for a few weeks. It has seen over 1000 downloads and some sales and library reads on Amazon since. With that novel installed in its rightful place in the never-ending library of the Amazonian concrete jungle, my attention could turn elsewhere.

For now, I'm in a transitional phase. I will still need to edit the second half of the novel, from Chapter 29 to 60, and in addition to that, I will be working on a new book. A collection of short stories, with the main genre being horror, but some of the stories might have secondary genres, such as sci-fi and fantasy, thriller, you name it. I've thought long and hard about it, and I've decided that I probably can't release the stories one by one - It'd be too costly, too time consuming, and it'd be a logistical nightmare added to the fact that I need to work on subsequent stories.

Anyway, with this in mind, I wrote about 300 words for the collection. Before Tuesday, I'd been doing token amounts of editing work as I read through my stories to regain the feel of them.

I plan to pick up speed quickly, just like before. On Wednesday, I wrote another 300 or 400. In addition to that, I edited 2 chapters of The Keeper of Pulau Purba. Assuming that my proofreader's speed isn't a limiting factor, it will take only 15 days to finish up with TKoPP.

But real life isn't made up of theories. I'll no doubt catch up with my proofreader, so on some days, I will concentrate on writing alone. It feels so refreshing! Working on new stuff!

One last thing. I've read stories of Amazon's horrific work conditions. I've even learnt a thing or two about it. Their principles are correct, but the execution horribly flawed - They'd forgotten everything about human rights and the benefits of retaining talent altogether. I plan to incorporate some of their principles into my writing. Specifically, the professionalism aspect of it, the drive for achievement. But I'm tempering it with common sense and self-preservation. I won't be driving myself into the ground, literally and metaphorically.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The Stuff that Makes or Breaks Writers

While I was surfing the waves of the Kboards forum, I encountered a man (or girl, didn't matter) who decided that talking about anything bad in my country is wrong because there are starving kids in Africa who can't get an education and many people would love to be born in my country. It annoyed the crap about him, and he admitted that he had never been to my country.

Now that really brings me back, all the way to my childhood. So what did go right, and what did go wrong? I'm going to try to do this chronologically:

1989: I was born, and I survived my birth, obviously. Ding!

1995: My entry into the education system begins. Ding!

1995: Bullying begins at a young age. Bzzt! (But also good in a twisted sense as it taught me a lot about human nature from when I was a wee lad)

2003: My entry into secondary school at the age of 12 marks the beginning of my interest in writing, reading and literature. Ding!

2004: For some time in my youth, I was discouraged by my fundamentalist Christian mother from reading Goosebumps or any other books she deemed wrong. Pokemon is evil, that's how bad it was. Bzzt!

2007: Confusion about my future led me down the wrong path as I pursued Biomedical Science rather than something related to writing. Bzzt!

2009: I was conscripted. Giant BZZT!!!

2011: I entered university after 2 years in that hell hole. Ding!

2011: It is at this point that the anti-intellectual, anti-creative environment in Singapore becomes apparent. Similarly, as my eyes were opened, the traditionalist attitude of society becomes hard to tolerate and work with. BZZT!!!

2014: A few internships at a number of publishing houses showed them to be financially and politically challenged. Traditionalist attitude reigns supreme in some, ensuring that their growth is limited. I realised that Singapore's publishing industry is not only NOT thriving, but might be dying. BZZT!!!

2015: Graduation. Can't find work in the publishing industry. It's just too small and embattled. BZZT!!! (Although this actually turns out to be a blessing in disguise, as it frees up my writing and editing energy for my own work)

2016: Found work in an exploitative human resource/cleaning/security company. You'd have to work 2 half-days on Saturdays every month, there's minimal pay and benefits for outrageous job scope. BZZT!!!

2016: My reservist liabilities begin, which means some time lost to the military at random times throughout the year, plus a ton of worrying, fearing and lamenting throughout the year. BZZT!!!

2016: I couldn't get my book traditionally published - There are just too few places to submit to, and I was out of options quickly. BZZT!!!

2016: I got my book out on Amazon. Ding!

2016: But that presents a double-edged sword: If I don't become successful, well, I don't get paid for this all that well, and nothing much will come out of it. If I become successful, I'll earn, I'll get famous, people will read my stuff. Lots of events will happen. But if I piss off the wrong people in Singapore, they're going to become a bunch of sour plums, press charges against me, and get me sued. If it's some powerful, rich dude doing it for the state, oh boy. And since human rights means nothing to the majority in Singapore.., BZZZZZZTTT!!!

So there you have it! A brief history of the good, the bad and the ugly things that could make or break writers, at least in Singapore.

So, what are my findings after this little thought experiment? That dude who has never been to my country, who decides to lecture me about it anyway had it right in a select few areas. Sure, I get fed, watered and educated well enough, but you see all those buzz kills? Well gee, that's a lot of them, and many of them have a lot to do with being a writer.

I rest my case that Singapore is not conducive for the development of writers. Nothing much redeems it in that direction. The scheme of things could keep the body alive, and its desires in check, with all the food, water, safety and security provided, but this is all at the cost of the soul and mind because, apparently, the prerequisite for material success is an overbearing government that can't stand critiques, and a traditionalist, close-minded society that won't allow even the slightest deviancy from the social norm.

Here's the funny thing though. What serves to limit creativity can also serve to enhance it. Paradoxical, contradictory, I know. But, see, censorship and all the nasty stuff associated with a dictatorial regime is the stuff of history, something else to write about. It's its own topic. Not to mention, when there are restrictions, you learn to find your way around them - That's creativity for you, alright.