I think many people had dreamed of writing and completing a book. A short story or novel perhaps. Send it to a publisher and get it published. Sell a million copies, makes lots of money, get on a book-tour, meet your feverish fans, and ultimately live the writer’s/celebrity’s life.
That’s the dream.
In life, there is a problem of procrastination. The act of delaying action.
The longer you delay doing something the more difficult it is to get started.
Some forms of procrastination are beneficial to you.
For example, the dishes in the sink. The longer you delay action — washing the dishes — the higher chance someone else will do it. And if you are lucky, your mom will wash them.
But so far, I am not so lucky when it comes to writing.
My mom didn’t write for her life.
The words didn’t grow on the pages even when I prayed. I thought of paying someone to write for me but quickly abandoned the idea after looking at my bank account.
I had to do the finger labour. Word by word. Line by line.
But first, I had to have some coffee.
*This coffee break took 2 years.
*2 years to get the story idea from my head onto paper.
I went on my honeymoon with my wife.
Set foot on Spain. Ole! I told myself I would take notes and do some research for my novel. Any snippets of story from the locals, the restaurant owners, bookstore staff, art gallery patrons, I would let them feed my curious brain.
This is the home of Don Quixote, which the literary world claimed to be the first novel ever published. Written by Miguel de Cervantes and published in 1605. This makes Don Quixote 410 years old at my time of visit. Incredible.
I even visited the Don Quixote restaurant which was across the street from the hotel I stayed. Don’t suspect. There is an actual Don Quixote restaurant.
Yingmei and I had a wonderful meal and I had an hour long conversation with the restaurant owner, a sweet and warmth lady in her sixties (I supposed). I talked in English, and her in Spanish.
Yingmei and I travelled from Madrid to Toledo (glorious food! And castles and no writing, yay!), from Barcelona to Figueres for a day tour to visit the Dali Museum.
I was in dreamland.
My mind’s eye was opened. It was like an epiphany moment
This man, Dali was incredible. One of a kind.
My last name is ‘Pan’, which incidentally is ‘bread’ in Spanish, and Dali’s personal favourite work was ‘The Bread’.
Pan/ Bread/ Dali/ Me.
My inspiration to write is here!
Well, I procrastinate again.
*Later I realised, the artist in me in brewing silently.
I bought some supplies to begin my work.
To write my novel! Which later turned out to be a novella. Which was nice anyway.
The blinking cursor and blank computer screen were making the procrastination stronger every second. I believe you’d agree with me too.
So I decided to go analog, like my idol, Señor Dali.
1. Fountain pen (Platinum Preppy, Muji pen, Pilot Custom 74) Yes, a writer needs 3 pens.
2. Iroshizuku ink set — pricey
- loose sheets (Muji, Maruman, Kokuyo)
- Notebooks (Clairefontaine, Midori, Mnemosyne, Muji, Life, CD, customised from Kakimori, Rolbamn, Rhodia, etc.) Never too many papers, writers are often stationery geeks.
- foolscap paper from the local bookstore. This is what I wrote my novella on in the end. See above picture’s yellow papers.
I play with potential titles in my mind. After a day or so, a title will stay and I write it down on paper. The thing with titles before ideas was something I learned during the copywriting courses which taught on the topic of ‘Headlines’.
It has to be catchy, attention seeking, gripping, strike fear, urgency, clear, whatever. You catch reader with the headline, then you can introduce the idea.
Catch your targeted reader and make them want to read the next page.
Take note: Make them read the next page
This is the mantra.
Give a character a problem and a desire.
Man trapped(problem) in a dark room and wants to escape(desire).
Girl loves(desire) a married(problem) man but found that he is also gay(great material for fiction).
Boy wants to fly(desire) but later couldn’t land(problem).
This problem/desire stage is simple and you have to keep it simple because the complicated part is coming up.
Throw lots of shit (bad events) in the middle of the story.
Man trapped in a dark room and wants to escape.
Then he finds that he cannot smell anything.
Then he finds that he cannot hear anything.
Then he finds that he has a stabbed wound in his abdomen.
Then he finds that the floor is heating up.
Then more shit and more shit…
Provide an ending.
After building the shit, sorry, building the climax, put an end to this shit.
The end can be either favorable or unfavorable to the main character.
It can be open-ended or closed ended.
* I use I-Ching which provides me the prompts and guide of what happens from the beginning to the end. Often I would differ from prompts anyway. But the I-Ching is a good guide. It helps me to tap into my subconscious.
Problems (always happening)
I have gotten my writing supplies and my simple process laid out.
And I thought it would be a direct flight to novella completion.
My flight crashed into The Writer’s Block.
My Writer’s Block is made of bricks. Many of them, like:
- Money problem.
- Cleaning the house
- Bringing mom to the hospital for checkups
- Parties and festival celebrations
- Worrying whether book will sell or not
- Worrying about friends reaction that I am writing full time and not ‘working’ full time
- Unknown bricks
Beating the Block.
I am lucky that my wife is supportive of my dream of being a writer.
She provided some seed money so that I don’t have to worry about food and mortgage.
So that I could write in peace till publication.
On a personal note, I disconnect from the internet and put away my smartphone when I want to write. I am still learning to write on the laptop because it is very difficult to turn off the internet by clicking on the ‘Airplane mode’ button. So bloody difficult.
I took my fountain pen and paper and headed to the library. And 2 months later, I completed my first draft.
Writing a book, a novel, novella, or short story (which I’m tackling now and not easy!) is a weird task, it is not easy and not so difficult. What’s happening in the mind is making all things difficult.
The emotion roller-coaster for my writing process goes something like this;
- Pre-writing (this is where the block is) — jaded :(
- During writing — happy :)
- Feeling tired and drained and still, wants to prolong the writing — jaded :(
- When story ends — happy :)
- Editing and cover design — jaded :(
- Formatting for kindle and paperback — jaded :(
- Publish and seeing the book on ‘shelf’ — happy! :D
- Not seeing sales — jaded :(
- Sales! — Happy! :D
- No reviews — jaded :(
- New story ideas — happy :)
My final thoughts which hopefully can be useful to you;
Believe you can do it.
Be creative in problem-solving.
Don’t worry too much.
Do what you can control.
Use the method that works for you.
You do not have to prove anything to anyone.
You do not even have to prove to yourself anything.
Enjoy the process. Most importantly,
My debut novella,