21 February 2017

I finished my short story today. *confetti*

I had been writing – rather putting off writing – the first of a series of novels for over a year when the idea of this short story came to me.

A friend and I were going to participate in NaNoWriMo last November and I needed a story to write. And it came to me in the shower, which is where all good ideas are born.

We ended up not doing NaNoWriMo, but a few months later as I was looking to re-start writing as a regular hobby I remembered the idea, and decided to put my novel aside and get started on it.

It was going to be a book, but then I thought of how I was struggling to motivate myself to finish a novel and realised a short story might be more realistic. Writing short stories, apart from being easier to finish, also has the added advantage of allowing me to practice different styles and get feedback on multiple pieces of writing.

So I decided to make it a short story.

I also decided to write it online (Google Docs) rather than on Word (my chosen medium) so I could work on it on my phone. This turns out to be a wise decision as I ended up writing most of it on my commute to town. I owe this story to the purple line; it is so slow I can usually finish a chapter before I reach the end of the line.

The short story is about a dragon and a boy. It’s 12-page long and is divided into bite-sized chapters. The aim is to explore the relationship between the two without directly reporting their interaction. The story is told through the voice of the boy. The challenge here was to develop the characters – a major flaw that has been pointed out by an experienced author of my unfinished novel.

I’m not sure if I like the finished work. Some days the story flowed and the dots were miraculously connecting to one another (today was one of those days), but some were a real struggle (yesterday was one) – I just couldn’t string the words together or control the direction of the story.

It’s only the first draft though, and knowing me it will go through many more until it reaches the first external examiner. I’ve asked a good friend to read and comment on it.

Once it’s truly finished, all varnished and shiny, I’m hoping to publish it somewhere. My first thought was to put it on my main blog – it has been dead for too long. But on second thought I’ll ask my experienced writer friend for recommendations on how to get a story out to the public. The ideal would be to get it published commercially, as part of a collection of short stories. I have no idea if it is that good, but you never know until you do.

But first, revisions!

Oh joy.

To all the writers out there, I hope today is one of the good days.

Happy writing!

Love,

Val

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27 September 2015 (Part 1)

Dear reader,

It has been almost a year (well, ten months) since we last met. I am deeply sorry for my absence. I hope you have been leading pleasant lives, full of pleasant encounters and pleasanty things.

A lot, and nothing, has been happening on my end. Let me give you a summary:

  • First real job ended two months after it began. For a variety of reasons. You could say we were incompatible. I did not find meaning in the ups and downs of marketing, and the company did not find a suitable employee in me. I simply could not make myself passionate about the work I was doing, and this proved fatal to our match. In any case, I retain pleasant memories from my short tenure; and valuable lessons in sociology and psychology were learnt.
  • I went crazy. Literally. I don’t remember if I ever told you about my depressive episodes, which occurred recurrently in 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014. (2012 was an entirely happy year, thanks to the wonderful offerings of Paris where I was spending my Erasmus exchange.) Anyways, I swung to the other end in late 2014, around the time I was leaving my job as Internet Marketing Analyst. By mid-January I was entirely out of it. I was deluded and I believe at one point hallucinating. My brain had gone haywire.
  • So, I was hospitalised. This was late January. To say ‘hospitalised’ is a bit misleading; I was forced to enter a mental hospital, where I was confined to the company of other crazy people for a month and a half. It was entirely traumatising, though the food was excellent. I gained weight and a disease: officially becoming a sufferer of bipolar disorder.
  • Reeling from the myriad effects of my medication (drugs that made my brain not go crazy), I was released from hospital in mid-March, from which time I have been home (hence the ‘nothing happening’ on my end). The drugs’ side effects wore off one by one. Apparently, for weeks after leaving the hospital I walked like C-3PO. Then the neck ache (never understood what that was about; my head was fine, it was the neck that hurt) disappeared. Gradually, the morning naps became shorter until, very recently, I was finally able to go the whole day without feeling sleep deprived. So yes, many months went by without nothing much happening. I watched Korean TV, Korean series (this one was my favourite), and Korean singers. I became something of an afficionado. (Like my mom, I must add. One of these days I shall surpass her knowledge of South Korea’s entertainment industry!) Apart from that I ate and walked. My father had kindly bought me a treadmill which I used daily to hill-walk in the (ever desperate yet futile) attempt to lose my hospital weight (the stress of being confined behind locked doors having been thoroughly relieved through overeating).

Recently, however, I have been writing. And that is why I am now here updating my precious baby. For many months I had planned on picking up a novel I had begun to write when I was seventeen. And finally, at the gentle yet firm urging of my doctor (whom I like very much) to find something more substantial than Korean entertainment to occupy my time, I opened the eight-year-old file and started writing. It’s a fantasy novel, a cross between Star Wars and Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire (ah yes, I forgot to tell you I have also been spending my time digging up old novels to read), with just a hint of Pop Economics and International Relations. It’s tentatively named The Gems of Azora and takes place on, you guessed it, the planet of Azora.

I’ve been writing everyday, but the book is advancing at a snail’s pace; I swear time disapparates (random reference) when I’m writing. I had left the book at 114 pages when I stopped writing eight years ago, and now I’m at 14. Wait… what? Yes. Sadly, I’m having to rewrite most, if not all, of what I’ve written. It turns out one’s command of English and general writing skills do improve over time. I shudder thinking back to my first reading of the sloppy, grammatically-inaccurate, and overly-complicated 114 pages I had produced as a teenager. Anyways, I’m rewriting it, and if I may I have to say the book is looking much better than it did before. I read and put the finishing touches on the first chapter yesterday, and I must say it is good fun. Fingers crossed, when the time comes, publishers will agree. I won’t tell you anymore just now, but I’ll surely be back to report on my progress.

That’s it for now. I hope you found this entry entertaining.

Much love,

Val

p.s. I’m thinking of taking up a part-time job as a waitress. There’s this trendy little restaurant near my house. I really like the atmosphere and the waiting staff is polite and efficient. I think I could have a good time working there while I finish my novel. Yes, maybe I should. We shall see…

 

 

 

31 March 2014

I’ve been revising like a possessed woman.

In marked contrast to the slow and forced process of the past three days, today’s revision was fast and effortless. I’d even say automatic.

It just happened.

And I’m not done with it yet. It’s 4pm and I haven’t had a proper lunch, save for that pork pie (it’s smaller than it sounds) at 12pm. So right about now is when I’m going to take a lunch break.

I wonder what revision will be like post-lunch. I’m planning a change of lieu. I’m moving to the reading room, which is where my productivity usually spikes. I’m expecting the favourable ambiance the room to help me submerge in my flow. So I can plunge into the eurozone (today’s reading pick).

I love that room. It’s large, bright, high-ceilinged. Full of people (middle-aged to senior) who are actually reading (with the occasional napper). All the properties that make a perfect reading environment. Not to mention the large rectangular wooden table that serves as a communal work/reading area. Sufficiently large that you don’t feel squished in between fellow readers/workers. That’s where I’ll be firmly planted for a few hours after lunch. Three, maybe four.

Then, if that goes well, I’m going to go plop myself in one of the comfy armchairs in the lounge after. And read my fun book while waiting for the traffic to clear so I can drive home. Hmm…

In the meantime, I revel in the success of the morning. I did so much. 

Last night through to this morning (before the revision mega-session happened), my mind had been going over and over – like a broken record – thoughts along the lines of: ‘I did so little the past few days, need to do more’, ‘Need to revise faster’, ‘Need to finish those notes; them hanging over me stresses me out’, ‘Need to go through more of those lectures’, so on and so forth.

It’s such a wonderful, wonderful feeling when you accomplish what you set out to do. Especially when what you set out to do was actually a lot. Far above average, in today’s case.

It’s such a buzz.

I wish I could continue so that the buzz would never stop. At times this morning, it felt like I could go on forever if I didn’t stop. What a wonderful thing that would be.

But all magic revision sessions, like parties, must come to an end.

I have revised, and now I must eat.

Until tomorrow – I shall be back to let you know how the rest of today (and maybe tomorrow) will have gone,

Val

17 March 2014

Note: as a result of WordPress unceremoniously ceasing to work mid-post yesterday (17 March), I am obliged to continue the rest of the post today (18 March).

I don’t know if it’s just me or if it’s the case for everybody, but every day spent at home feels the same to me.

Today was one of those days.

Knowing that I have at least two 5am mornings coming up this week, I permitted myself a lie-in. Which means I got up at 9am which, for me, is a real treat.

A lot of my day hangs on when I get up. And to me, any time between 7 and 9am is just right. When I wake up after 9am, I get the feeling that I’ve wasted half my day. It’s completely irrational. And this irritation with myself (for having wasted half the day) then stops me from enjoying the other half of the day I’m actually awake to enjoy. I know. I should really do something about that.

And if I wake up before 7? Well, that usually means I’m low on sleep, given that I hardly ever go to sleep before 11pm.

How many hours of sleep do you need? My magic number is 7. Which is why I have a real issue with 5am mornings. Let’s do the maths. Getting up at 5am means I must be in bed well before 10pm (accounting for staring-at-phone-on-bed time). The thing is, I never am.

And for a reason completely out of my control: traffic.

(OK. Sometimes it’s just me being glued to the pages of a particularly gripping book or the screen of my not-so-gripping-yet-addictive phone, but that doesn’t throw a good light on my self-control, so yes. Traffic.)

I know. It sucks.

So yes, knowing that I have to wake up at 5am tomorrow (and the day after), I decided to get up at 9am – not so early as to prematurely deprive myself of sleep, not so late as to prevent me from getting sleepy at a suitable hour.

It is now 8.39pm. So, ideally, I should be in bed in less than 90 minutes. To get my 7 hours.

Will I be in bed in 90 minutes? I highly doubt it.

First, I haven’t had my dinner. Now that I think of it, I bought too much food, but that’s too late now. Wait, I can just ration off a portion and… throw it away? Nah. That’s no good. Must be considerate to those with no food to eat. (Though I’m not sure how what I do with my food surplus affects them… better not get into that.)

I’m not going to go straight to bed after eating this excessively large portion of food, right, so I’m going to be doing stuff. Most likely continuing to watch an episode of HIMYM (that will accompany my dinner). And what usually happens (when I watch an episode of something) is that I start wanting to watch an episode of other things (maybe New Girl). So on and so forth.

You get the picture.

And this is where WordPress decided to bail on me. How rude.

On the bright side, writing this ex post allows me to tell you what happened last night, and to remind myself to never, ever underestimate the power of a book.

So, this is what happened:

– I discovered that the latest episode of HIMYM was actually due to air yesterday, in the US, which meant – of course – that it was not yet available to watch on the GMT++ side of the world.

– So I watched New Girl over dinner. Just one episode. Because the Internet was really slow and attempting to download another would have just reduced me to a pile of frustration.

– Without blog or series to distract myself, I decided to go to bed, with a book. This was probably about 10pm.

– Lo and behold, I couldn’t stop reading the book. Ended up finishing it. And went to bed well after midnight.

– Woke up at 5am this morning extremely undecided about whether to wake up or lie in.

In the end, the better me won and here I am, awake and writing. I even managed to throw in a 5.7k outdoor run this morning. I’m extremely proud of myself. As you can probably tell.

Now, I’d better go. Revision calls.

Until later,

in this case, tonight,

Val