This is a phrase people throw around too lightly, when they’re under a lot of pressure, or even when they’re just a tiny bit stressed… myself included. I recently finished writing a book where my main character constantly suffers from panic attacks, and I thought if I read enough about their signs and symptoms and people’s genuine experiences, I would be able to write about it properly.
Boy was I wrong.
I’ve been under a lot of pressure those past three months. I left my job early September, and the hunt for a new position hasn’t been successful. That is not to say I haven’t been working; I’ve actually been buried deep in freelance work and I’m generating more income than my previous salary. Still, it’s very nerve-wracking when you don’t have a steady paycheck, and I have gone through several sleepless nights over it. I guess it was inevitable that I would eventually crack under all that pressure. Continue reading “It took me having a legit panic attack to know I’ve been writing them all wrong.”→
Five years ago I wrote a post about how I always avoid profanities in fiction, declaring my stance against including swear words and sex scenes in my books. To begin with, let me just say I’m still fixed upon the non-inclusion of sex (except maybe in fade-to-black-situations), but recently I’ve found myself budging when it comes to swearing.
When before I didn’t think they have any merit, I realise now that there are some situations that call for the occasional f-bomb. When before I thought I could find squeaky clean alternatives, I instead found myself struggling with authenticity. Try as I could to make things work without resorting to profanity, it just wasn’t working this time.
I’m working on a book (currently) titled “Mail Order Thief”, and my main character is as cynical and rude and angry as they come. When I set out to write him, to draw the outlines of his character, I tried to wash his mouth with soap but he spat it out and snapped at me. He was not amused, not in the slightest, that I was trying to drown out his voice just so I wouldn’t bruise my ideals. Continue reading “Revisiting the Swearing Question”→
Last week, I woke up with an intense pain in my thumb and an overall numbness in my hand. To say I freaked out would be an understatement, especially since I was totally fine when I went to bed the previous night. In fact, I was more than fine; I was writing.
I had a new idea, a post-apocalyptic novel with flying islands and metal dragons and this really badass heroine. I was – and still am – super stoked about it… so stoked that I decided I must write it by hand. A fantasy novel, possibly a trilogy, fully written by hand… I must be insane, right? Bit of a background here, though: nine or ten years ago, I used to write everything by hand. I had notebooks upon notebooks filled with stories. Then I bought a laptop and it seemed more convenient to just type them in right away, from the comfort of my bed, no notebook balancing needed. I didn’t abandon my penmanship completely – I still brainstormed on paper, I still had some journals… but I was no longer writing for prolonged periods of time.
I think, in those years, my hand sorta forgot what it was like, writing full-blown novels, assuming it had completely passed on the baton to the tips of my fingers. So it was in for a rude awakening when I made it write 30+ pages in 3 days, and it retaliated by giving me my own rude awakening. Quite literally. Continue reading “Writing is dangerous. No, really – it is.”→
Inky hands, correction pen stains, crumpled up paper, doodles on the corners… that was more or less my perpetual state as a writer when I was younger. Then computers came along and I migrated to the digital forms of writing, leaving my notebooks behind to collect dust while I sang the praises of Microsoft Word, with its pristine fonts and formatting options and the ability to start over and delete words with the click of a button.
Lately, however, I have been having difficulty even coming up with words to delete.
To be fair, when I was younger, I never had to approach a computer screen with a work mentality – it was a tool for fun and procrastination, but now I mostly associate it with translation and proofreading. I was also not involved with the Internet as I am now, and knew only a handful of websites. Social media wasn’t rampant, and my attention wasn’t diverted every few seconds by new tweets, Instagram posts, blogs, videos and forum replies.
I knew I needed to take a step back if I were ever to pull myself out of this neverending loop of distraction, disconnect a bit from my laptop, build my focus… and so I decided to go back to the basics. I think I went too far back though, because I bought myself a typewriter.
Today I had the privilege of meeting the wonderful Brandon Sanderson a second time. I wish I could say I didn’t fangirl again, but I did. I was so in awe of this man that I completely forgot any and all questions I wanted to ask him. Got three of my books signed though, and got a tiny pep talk from him when I told him my dreams of winning a writing competition were crushed a couple of hours earlier – cheered me up right away.
I didn’t just meet Sanderson the author, I also met Sanderson the professor. And he was brilliant. I wish I had him as a teacher back when I was still in school. The workshop we had him was titled, “Sanderson’s Laws of Fantasy Writing”, and it was really quite enlightening. The laws are applicable not just to fantasy, of course, and the wisdom should really be shared. This is all paraphrasing of course, and I’m just relying on my notes here!
Procrastination Station took me to Reddit today (as it often does), where I came across a 2-week old AMA (a Q&A sort of thing where anyone can ask the poster of the thread anything) by R. L. Stine, whose books I’m sure have kept many of you up at night on more than one occasion, and one person was asking him about his writing process.
24 BOOKS IN ONE YEAR? Holy crap. Okay, so Goosebumps and Fear Street books aren’t that lengthy, but it is still amazing to me that one can be so productive with their writing and keep up a constant stream of ideas. The last book I finished writing was 2 years ago. Last year I only was able to squeeze out 15 thousand words. I just… wow. Continue reading “Of Writing Robots & Lazy Humans”→
“People who write fantasy and science fiction, like you [Brandon Sanderson], J. K. Rowling and many others… you aren’t authors; you’re writers. And these books are definitely not literature because they’re not real.”
Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a panel discussion on the merits of children’s literature and how reading and a sense of curiosity and wonder should always be nurtured. The wonderful Brandon Sanderson – author of the Mistborn series – was there, and he spoke about his own experience with books and writing, and how – as a kid – he only became a reader when his teacher introduced him to fantasy. When all was said and done, one crusty critic blatantly told Sanderson that he doesn’t consider him or the likes of J. K. Rowling to be proper authors, just writers, and fantasy, science-fiction… that’s not literature, simply because it isn’t real.
A fantasy writer myself and a huge fan of Rowling and Sanderson’s work, I was seething. How dare he? But then Sanderson gave such a gratifying answer that left everyone clapping and the man looking around in defeat. He questioned this obsession with reality, what’s so wrong about things that aren’t real, what’s so wrong about imagining things? After all, there were many things that we currently have that weren’t real at some point, and would never have been if man hadn’t thought about them and imagined to be real. That power, that sense of wonder, is important to hold on to. Of course, he didn’t answer in so few words, but that was the gist of it. Continue reading “Fantasy isn’t literature.”→
I’m moving on Friday, to a whole new job, a whole new city, a whole new country in fact. I’m excited and terrified at the same time. This is a whole new level of independence and responsibility that I’ve never had before, and knowing me, I will either screw up badly or do brilliantly. There’s no middle ground.
One of the things I’m really looking forward to is having my own place and furnishing it the way I like (priorities, amirite?). I’ve started looking at apartment listings and furniture catalogues already. I have visions of myself strolling through IKEA, seeing my perfect living room/bed room and saying, “This is it. This is so me.” I am also on the lookout for the perfect bookshelf… which brings us to the title of this post.
HOW THE HELL DO I CHOOSE WHICH BOOKS TO TAKE?
Books, I’ve discovered, are very heavy indeed. 10 paperbacks and 5 hardbacks together weight 6.7 kg (14.7) pounds. I’m only allowed 40 kg for my flight, of which 10 kg have already been taken up by the weight of my bags themselves. Speaking of bags, I had absolutely no idea they could cost so much; I was so shocked! Anyway. I have about 400 books on my shelves, out of which there are 65 books I haven’t read it (give or take). My first solution?
I thought I was making good progress. I was reading one book per day. But with a sinking feeling, I realised that if I were to read all my books before leaving, I would need to go through at least 6 per day. Impossible. Distraught, I started thinking of other tactics. Continue reading “A Bibliophile’s Packing Dilemma”→
If you were browsing the shelves of a bookstore and came upon a book with that name printed across the cover, what would you do? Would you ignore it, regardless of how interesting it seemed, and move on to another book written by a clearly English native? Or would you give it your time of day because in the end it’s the story that matters?
I know that most of us would say that we’d pick it up. It’s the morally right answer. A book is a book regardless of who writes it. It shouldn’t matter if the author is English or Arabic or Indian or whatever else. Yet I can’t help but think that this is the answer we want to give, not the one we’re subconsciously thinking. Maybe we do discriminate against people with foreign/exotic names without even realising it. I mean… I only caught myself doing it recently… allowing my eyes to glaze over English books with Arabic authors in favour of books with English authors.
I paused. Then I felt disgusted with myself. Then I felt like a hypocrite. For so many years I’ve wondered if the fact that I was an Arab had anything to do with the fact that many agents wouldn’t even look at my manuscript, and now I end up doing the same to others. Continue reading “Is my name against me?”→
Yes, you heard me. I don’t want anyone reading the book I worked so hard to write. Not indefinitely, of course, but at least until I correct my horrendous writing mistakes. There are two reasons I avoid reading my books after I’ve published them: 1) I don’t want to find that I’ve missed some awful typos (like writing “nut” instead of “but), and 2) I don’t want to see how bad my writing is.
When they tell you that a writer is their own worst critic, they are definitely not joking. Seeing the words I wrote nearly three years ago makes me cringe. Heck, seeing the words I wrote five months ago makes me cringe. On one hand, that’s a good thing because it means I’m improving and my writing is becoming better and better, but on the other, it means I don’t like anything I published in the past. I’m almost embarrassed by it. Continue reading “Don’t read my book!”→