Month: May 2012

Editing: It’ll never be perfect.

I’ve been putting it off for too long. I’ve written my novel last year. It’s there. On paper. The first draft. And you now what? I was happy. I was more than that. I was exuberant. But now I realise it was all a lie. It was all an illusion. Because now…

I have to edit!

I’ve written a few novels in my twenty five years alive  (not as much as say Amanda Hocking..but that’s ok!). What I’ve actually done, is written one that I really care about.

That’s a start.

I believe this wholeheartedly. You have to write, no matter what it is, about something you really care about. Sounds stupid right? Actually, I’ve written lots of things that I don’t care about because they were the “in” thing at that time. Or the latest craze.

It doesn’t matter how long it takes. Chose a story that is you. Craft and create those characters. It’s ok to emulate – but don’t forget that everyone is different.

Write it. Make it personal. Care about it. Love it.

Why? Because you are going to be constantly reacquainted with that piece of work many many times. Especially during the editing process. And let me tell you – once you truly care about a project – you won’t mind.

You’ll love going back to that world over and over again.

Right now I’m editing the second draft of my children’s novel. I have the outline. I know the plot points and the things I want to change.

However I know it’s constantly going to challenge me. It’s constantly going to put me down and make me feel unaccomplished. I get insecure about my writing too. All the time.

I heard this piece of advice a while back which I am keeping close to my heart and mind. It’s shaping my editing process at the moment. It’s a simple saying that relieves me of all that fear, insecurity and anxiety.

Some things will never be perfect.

It’s the summation of many key pieces of advice from articles I’ve read, writing books and through my work as a Producer/Writer/filmmaker. When it comes to editing a short film, the dictum is pretty much the same.

You’ll always get a “better idea”, a “better sentence” or a “better word” some day.  But it doesn’t mean the original product can’t be – and isn’t – great.

The movie Jurassic Park can be better. It doesn’t stop the original from being great (and shaping my childhood dreams!)

Make mistakes.

Instead I’m trying to think differently. Because whilst you are writing, editing and perfecting – what you really should be doing is learning.

Rather than make it ‘perfect’, I think I am going to make it ‘truthful’. Truthful to what I wanted it to be in the first place. That means letting go of the fact that there will be flaws and just letting it evolve.

The ability to be open to learning – is power.

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I’m a Writer (and maybe a Rapper)

I’m a twenty five year old Eurasian male. I’m a nerd. I’m a Trekkie. I like science fiction, dinosaurs and books about a combination of the two (Jurassic Park!). I have lots of hobbies and interests but there’s one that stands out from the rest.

I’m totally obsessed with rap music. *Cue frenetic rap music video*

So what’s the odd thing about that? Well, I’m pretty convinced that it has inspired some of my best work when it comes to writing, directing and producing.

While the thought of JK Rowling or Stephen King writing a masterpiece to a Tupac song makes me smile (and wonder), there’s something else to it. Music certainly inspires all forms of art. Can rap music inspire writers?

Photo by visual.dichotomy (Creative Commons)

Let me state it now. Rap music IS writing.

My fascination with rap isn’t so much about enjoying rap music. It’s more about setting up the certain mindset BEFORE YOU WRITE. (Stay with me here). Because that is essentially what it is all about. Mindset.

When I was fourteen I was quiet, introverted and only really asserted myself during drama class, where I played over the top flamboyant characters. It made the class laugh. I felt good. But..

I was scared of my potential.

I was like that for a long time. Until my friend passed me a mix tape he compiled as a lark. For a skinny white teenager, girlfriend-less and without a semblance of cool about him – listening to that tape had a profound effect on me.

It had a lot of different rappers on it: Jay-Z, Nas, Notorious B.I.G,  Eminem, Tupac, Wu-Tang Klan and other rappers. Yes most of the songs contained swear words. Yes some of the songs contain violent and lewd themes. Yes they were shocking.

And yes, it introduced me to the power of words.

Rhyme schemes. Aliteration. Metaphors. Similes. Vocabulary.

It was empowering. To know that so much could come out of a sentence, rhyme or ‘bar’ as rappers call it. I was an avid reader in my teens but to hear the power of words -lyrically – was something else.

It wasn’t the music. It was the electricity of the words. (Yes words have electricity)

After I migrated to Singapore, at the age of fifteen, I voraciously began searching for new rap songs and rappers to fill my imagination.

I watched international ‘Rap battles’ on websites and youtube (where two rappers go head to head like competing boxers). I wrote my own raps. I performed my own raps.

I was obsessed.

How could these rappers create such intricate connections of words, and at the same time, produce such intimate commentary about family, war, violence, love and success?

Isn’t that the aim of every writer? To combine the fluency of the pen with emotion?

Eventually my search led me to explore the history of many rappers. I read one particular book, ‘Whatever You Say I Am : The Life and Times of Eminem’ by Anthony Bozza. It detailed the history of rap, as well as the dark history of Marshall Mathers aka Eminem.

Then the meaning of my obsession hit me.

Rap music and Rappers struck me as a lesson in perseverance. Of courage. Of not failing to live up to your potential. Of defying the odds.

In rap music if the cards are stacked against you – it’s not an excuse! You are either great or you are already great. No in between.

I realised to be the writer I want to be – I need to think like that. There are no excuses. No backup plan. As Yoda once famously said: “Do or do not…there is no try.” (Actually it was really George Lucas…but you get the point).

In Eminem’s case: if a single white male, desperate, terribly poor, with societies norms against him, in the dangerous streets of Detroit could do it — with just passion and skill — why couldn’t I?

It was all there. All the lessons I’d need to know about writing and being successful. Of reaching my dream of being a children’s novelist, producer and film maker.

All rappers are writers. All writers are rappers too. It’s about the electricity you put into your words and work.

My journey eventually led me to perform numerous songs rap songs at friends birthdays and gatherings. I had gained a cool factor – finally! And I wasn’t scared of my potential anymore.

Rap music isn’t so much about making green, gyrating hoes and gold teeth.

It’s about confidence. It’s about asserting yourself. It’s about saying ‘I’m better than you’ and saying it with poise and conviction. It’s about embracing passion and using words to incite the senses.

It’s about saying: “I’m gonna rule this.”

We live in a society where political correctness prevails. We can’t say we are better than someone else for fear of being labelled as egotistical or big headed.

Rap music is about celebrating your greatness. Celebrating that you are the best. Celebrating that you can make it with determination and practice.

That no matter who you are, what you look like, your past or circumstances — passion and skill always prevails.

The last line of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” sums that up perfectly. It’s a song that I listen to everyday when I need a boost, inspiration or an encouraging word. I don’t think it was even ‘scripted’.

You can do anything you set your mind to man.

Lose Yourself, Eminem

Celebrate the greatness within you once in a while. Perhaps right now you’re not the writer you want to be. Perhaps right now you don’t have the success you desire. Perhaps right now the odds are not stacked in your favor.

So what? There’s no use in complaining. Try thinking like a rapper.

Embrace pain. Push it into your words, stories and characters. Create your own electricity when you write. And know that..

One day you’re going to be the greatest (your definition of greatness.. no one else’s). One day it’s going to be your turn to reign. One day you are going to crush your enemies (your fears, your own doubts, and all those elements working against you).

You are a Writer. Create your own beat.

 —-

This post is a part of the Jeff Goin’s “You are a Writer” contest. To join yourself click on: http://youareawriter.com/contest/.

Photo credit: visual.dichotomy

Uncover What You Used To Do

Today I tidied my bedroom after a busy month. I know that isn’t a spectacular revelation. Or is it an occurrence worth a whole blog post about (…I guess it is). However today whilst tidying my room, I discovered something that I used to do quite well.

I used to write words down that I didn’t know.

I admit it. My vocabulary isn’t that amazing. I read quite a bit and find words I don’t understand all the time.

I think my tool shed (vocabulary) is packed with a few good ‘tools’ (words, adjectives, nouns) but nothing mind blowing. To be honest, it takes me a little time to construct a really good sentence. Why?

Well I’m just a slow thinker. I want to make sure that each word, sentence and paragraph is saying exactly what I want it to say. I also want to write it in the simplest and easiest to understand method possible.

However that doesn’t mean I can forget about my vocabulary. If words are my “weapons”, then I’m gonna need bullets.

What I found today was a Vocabulary Book.

What I used have was a separate book (a normal exercise book), and when I came across a word I didn’t know, I simply wrote it down. I would, after each reading session, decipher these words with a little sentence beneath it to describe how it could be used.

What a great idea! Why on earth did I forget about it!

I don’t know why I’ve forgotten to carry on this little training tip of mine. What is even more sad, is that I can’t remember a time where I actively used one of the words inside. I must forgotten, along with the book, about the words too.

My memory needs a lot of jogging. And I’m going to force him to get up and run.

I came across too words today that I didn’t know whilst reading ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’ by Harper Lee.

1. Apoplectic : overcome with anger, extremely indignant (“Jem was apoplectic with rage”)

2. Camellia: an evergreen eastern Asian shrub related to the tea plant, grown for its showy flowers and shiny leaves.

Others in my book that I really loved:

“The rheumy shine of his brown eyes”

“A predawn hush fell upon the forest”

“Consciousness had receded, sinking her into a black bin of terror”

“The fat cheeks were two cherubic mounds beneath spider black eyes”

Now I won’t of course be using them word for word. But they are nice to spark off the imagination.

I don’t know why, but I also remember that it was actually kind of fun. Like I was decoding a puzzle.

I’m making it a point to do this whenever I come across a word I don’t know. At least write it down if a note pad is handy. It just makes the whole reading and writing experience much more enjoyable.

Plus, at the end of the day, I can truly say I’ve learned something.

So why don’t you give a little thought to habits you used to practice.  Do you have any that are helpful to you?

Perhaps somewhere lurking in your room, there’s a good one just waiting to be unearthed…

You Can Learn A lot From A Small Success

I abandon my babies.  It’s despicable. I’ve done it for as long as I can remember and I want to stop. They’re living breathing entities aren’t they? Why would I do that?

When I say ‘babies’, I of course mean..my stories.

Yes that’s right –  I am the master of starting stories that I don’t finish!

I get ideas mostly at night (at that dead hour when you can’t sleep and start to realise there IS something lurking in the corner).

I’ve only started, very recently, to get into the habit of writing ideas down and transferring them to my computer.

Now I know that it’s common. Writers come up with ideas all the time. They probably disgard half of them thinking they are too far fetched, unrealistic or downright embarrassing.

Or even because they believe they’ve made a complete mess of a really cool concept. That they didn’t do it justice.

That’s my biggest fear as a writer. To come up with a really kickass story – and then write it in such a way, that it’s better in my head than on paper.

To me that’s a tragedy.

You want to write it so it’s EXACTLY like you envision it in your head.

So people can smell every scent, feel every chill and love every character as you do in your heart and mind. That’s the challenge of every writer.

The only time I managed to do that was with one story of mine. It’s getting a small measure of success at the moment and so I’ve decided to break it down.

It’s a teenage novel – a science fiction tale – that has recently been picked up as a concept for an animated short (* awkwardly high fives myself*).

I’m currently in the second draft of the novel which is going well as well.

I think there are several reasons why this is my biggest success to date and…why I stuck to it!

1. The story, characters and theme came from a personal place.

There’s no dodging this one. ‘Write what you know’. For this story in question, I  wrote each character as an extension of me (not entirely..juuuust a bit).

My main protagonist is a Eurasian (like me). She’s migrated to a different country at the beginning of the story (England to Singapore..like me!). And has the same insecurities and ‘flaws’ …as me.

Now we aren’t carbon copies but it sure did help. It was also science fiction, which is ME (proud Treky over here).

The theme of the tale, which I felt I needed to define in one sentence, was also very personal; my views on family, parents and the meaning of home.

2. It tapped into what I WANTED to see (as an adult and child)

There’s no point in writing a story that you wouldn’t read. There’s no point in making a film you wouldn’t fork out $10 for at the cinema to watch.

Make something that excites you. On numerous levels.

This story, the world and the characters have kept me up since I was 8 years old. Harness that energy.

3. I took my time.

I don’t believe in rushing stories and writing them. There’s nothing worst than getting the feeling that something is written in a hurry, with mistakes, gaping plot holes and a lack of fastidiousness.

It’s taken me a good fifteen years to create this world – in all of its different incarnations and versions.

I’ve streamlined it over the years and now have a solid skeleton that I’m proud of. It was tough but above all– fun!

You have to believe in your story first (no matter how far fetched it may seem).

Take care in the world you create. Take even more care in the characters. Listen to people’s comments.

These are the profound links that will connect your words with the reader. That’s really where all the magic comes from.

I have no real big successes to talk about yet. No book deal. No official website or avid readers queuing up to read my latest work just yet.

However, I’ve learned that it doesn’t take big success to learn a lot.

Start small. Perfect small. The rest comes later.

Write Everyday Please Kane

 For those of you who don’t know, I’m currently pursuing the last year of my formal education.

I love stories. I’ve made it a part of my life. I don’t think I can do anything else.

Trust me. I’ve tried. It wasn’t pretty.

This past year and through my previous work as a Producer, Writer and Director (of mostly small and modest projects), I’ve come to realise that I need to buckle down.

I need to make writing and storytelling a part of who I am.

I don’t think I’ve been doing that as much as I should.

Simply put – I haven’t been writing EVERYDAY!

(In my head: You phoney!)

This simple reality has made me feel a little bit like a crock. I write – a lot – but not everyday. I can write more. I can perfect myself more. I can have fun more too.

 
I’m making a new pledge to myself.
 

I’m coming to the end of my first year. I have a very well needed three month break.

I’ve never written for three months, everyday, straight. I’ve written – essays, papers, notes…but not something creative for that long.

I’m making it a point to do it.

A promise.

Even if I spontaneously combust with my hands still on the keyboard!

For anyone wanting to be better, you have to put in the hard work. Being good is not enough. Being great is the ultimate goal.

Talent can only push you so far before our dear enemy Mr. Procrastination comes along.

Talent without the hours of slogging away at your craft isn’t going to push you to be better.

I want to be a great writer.

I want to have a firm grasp on everything. I don’t have to be good at everything.

I just need to find a new voice.

So that’s my promise. I’m going to blog (over these three months), tweet (about writing of course!), restrain myself from visiting social media sites and above all…

WRITE

Have a good day 🙂

I Am A Writer: My Core Beliefs

I read this fantastical article the other day over at Jeff Goin’s blog (courtesy of Ben Reed). It focused on the idea of writing with conviction.

http://goinswriter.com/writing-conviction/

We all want to achieve that. We want to know our words and actions have power. That they have meaning. That they are changing peoples lives.

I am a writer. I believe that. It’s my truth.

I don’t think it’s the idea of fame, fortune or status that drives me. It’s knowing that being a writer is a part of me.

That in some strange, corny and totally predestined way – it is me.

It has taken be 25 years to build up enough courage to say it.

I think I have only really been proclaiming it for a less than a year. Why? Well, it’s scary to proclaim you are something without any real achievements to back it up.

For writers though it’s not about achievements. As Jeff Goins often cites from his experiences, “You are a writer when you say you are.”

Full steam ahead.

Writing is something I’ve always been doing. Something I find true joy in.

But I know that it is not enough. You can’t be a good writer or good at anything, just saying you are. Passion has to be followed by actions.

You have to be committed. You have to say it, proclaim it and believe it.

Say it in your day to day activities, your conversations and your emails even (signatures make a difference). Your work, play and free time. It has to be who you are everyday.

So how do you do this? Action.

Derived from beliefs. Core beliefs.

During my army days, I decided to read a lot of diverse biographies for my own personal growth.

From Bruce Lee, George Lucas, Eminem (yes I idolize rappers which will be the subject of my next post!) to Tiger Woods and Muhammad Ali.

I decided to embark on a quest. To find the secret of their success.

What did I discover?

Happiness and eventually success, comes from synchronizing passion, career and beliefs. It’s that simple. Many people lose sight of this.

I believe it because I’ve seen positive improvements to my life by doing just that (some I’ll touch on in future posts).

The closer your career is to your key beliefs as a person, the happier you’ll be and the more successful at it. You’ll “blow up” – maximizing your potential.

I’m only really starting to see the real effect of this statement. I’ve only recently been consciously stating it and reaffirming it in my mind.

But what I have learned, is that the sooner you come to believing what you are going to be, the sooner it’ll work.

My Top 3 Core Beliefs:

1. That you can, no matter who you are or where you come from, become anything you want to be. Dreams can come true. It starts in the mind first.

2. Magic exists. It takes different forms over the course of your life (fate, destiny) but it’s there.

3. That everything happens for a reason.

These are mine. Of course I have many more, but these are the ones I’m actively “working with” everyday.

Right now, it’s time to get on with it. To pursue this with conviction. Wholeheartedly.

So what are your core beliefs?

Ten Things I’ve learnt from my Mother

  1. Don’t complain. There’s someone out there a hundred times more worst of than you. Your healthy, have a full set of fingers and a working brain. You also have loved ones. Be content.
  2. Respect people. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
  3. Say please and thank you. It matters – people do take notice.
  4. Try not to swear. There are more impassioned (and “sexier”) words to describe your feelings.
  5. Read. You don’t even have to finish each book/article/journal. Read to learn.
  6. Write. Nuff’ said.
  7. Speak Good English (or whatever language you speak). It’s representational of your upbringing and how seriously you consider life.
  8. Remove negative elements from your life. They’re a disease.
  9. Stand up for what you believe in. You’ll be happy you did when you’re older. It often inspires more than it creates conflict. You’re not living if you are not making a difference.
  10. Follow your passion. Life is too short.