Do you warm up before you start on your #WIP ?


Today, I’m posting one of my warm-up sessions, unedited. Do you warm up before you start writing on your #WIP ?
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When writing becomes second nature

Writing warm-ups

I write often at a food court in one of the shopping malls in the neighborhood. Today I have 600 words already under my belt when I set off, so I do not feel that fear which always accompanies an empty page. But I do have to start a chapter, and that is hard.

Sometimes the best way to write is just wait for it to come, and surround myself with the hum of conversation, with the clatter of cutlery thrown against ceramic plates, the muted screech of chairs drawn out from under the tables, the whir of the food processor as yet another milkshake is born.

At a table near me sit four Chinese women, animated over their cups of black coffee, all short-haired, middle-aged, frumpily dressed, with big smiles as they discuss some achievement or the other in Hokkien. Must be related to badminton practice, because I see pink and blue and red racquets poking out of each bag.

The Hong Kong Roast stall near which I’ve picked my table is the most eye-catching. Red-browned, glazed piglets, ducks and chicken hang motionless under yellow incandescent lighting, the queue is witness to the stall’s skill at cooking and the reasonable prices. A large portion of roast duck noodle sells at SGD 4.

They’re not shy of promoting their culinary efforts either—each plate of sliced roast pork comes with a pink or orange or yellow plastic rose and plastic green leaves, which later lie sad and abandoned on the plates amongst a pile of bones. The elderly cleaning lady (all cleaning staff at the food court is elderly, the young generation mans the sales counters), cleans off the plates with brattles of sound off stage behind a screen, and I think of the poor crushed petals of plastic roses lying under chewed-up bones.

I pick at the pile of pineapple slices on my plate with a toothpick the fruit-seller served them with. Why you eat so many fruit, ah? he asked me today, by way of conversation.

Rare in Singapore, to be addressed about anything other than your food when eating at food courts. But he has seen me off and on for weeks and months, and with no waiting queue behind me, threw me a question.

I smiled back. Love fruits leh, but too lazy to peel them one. I mangled my English on purpose. I knew I didn’t get the slang quite right, but they say, Ha? if I talk with all the conjunctions and prepositions I learned in school. The fruit-seller smiled back, Healthy one, ah, and handed me the change. I’ve used this sort of conversation in stories before, but my novel isn’t set in Singapore, so today’s exchange at the fruit counter isn’t helpful.

In all this time today, I’ve just sat and typed at random about where I am, about the Indian man gobbling up his chicken rice, dressed in striped shirt and office gear, a red backpack beside him, fake golden Rolex watch glinting under the light.

Or the elderly Chinese lady in glasses, coaxing strands of noodles on to her ceramic spoon, garnishing each mouthful with a slice of pickled chili, and popping the whole thing into her mouth while swaying with the music from her headphones.

Beside her sit two white women, one of them making inroads into her vegetable and rice with fork and spoon, the other making a mess of it with crossed chopsticks. The Chinese lady doesn’t look at them, not once.

Now that I have warmed up again, written my way through the Food court and waited, I’m hoping the Chapter will come to me. When I go home I’ll upload this on my blog, and tell you all about how I sat down today and waited to write.

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(P.S: I got in 1056 words after my warm-up, which, though not scintillating, is still much better than nothing)

Would You Read Interactive Literary Fiction?


Literary fiction writers are often a staid, boring lot. (I should know, I’ve written in this ‘genre’ for about 5 years now, and have been reading it for decades.) But as I read in the Guardian yesterday, top novelists are now looking to ebooks to challenge the rules of fiction!

Updating Literary Fiction

Updating Literary Fiction

“Online fiction is a remote world, peopled by elves, dragons and whey-faced vampires. At least that is the view shared by millions of devoted readers of the printed novel. But now serious British literary talent is aiming to colonise territory occupied until now by fantasy authors and amateur fan-fiction writers.

In the vanguard is Iain Pears, the best-selling historical novelist and author of An Instance of the Fingerpost and Stone’s Fall. Pears will offer readers the chance to go back to check detailed elements of his narrative and will even flag up sections they do not have to read. “I am trying to find a new way of telling stories, and once you start thinking about it, there are almost too many possibilities,” said the Oxford-based writer, who is completing an interactive ebook for Faber that will stretch the form to its current limits. “There is no reason to think the printed book will be the defining literary format. I don’t want to be cautious any more. This is about changing the fundamentals. The worst that can happen is that it won’t work.”

It is a challenge that also intrigues acclaimed authors Blake Morrison and Will Self, although they detect some obstacles. As professor of creative writing at Goldsmiths College, at the University of London, Morrison has just launched a £10,000 prize for innovative new writing and argues that the success of experimental ebooks will depend on making interactivity more than just a feature. “Reading by its very nature is interactive – whether you do it on an iPad or with a printed book, you participate,” he said. “The novelist creates a world and the reader brings something to it. Reading is not a passive process. Literary interactivity means more than computer games. Or should do.”

I don’t like the prevalent dismissive attitude towards genre fiction, and I’m happy the ‘serious’ writers are waking up to the possibility of ebooks, and interactivity. I wouldn’t mind the ability to choose a different ending, or any other stunt the stalwarts of literary writing think up. If it is gimmicky, so what? It can be fun!

What do you think of Interactive Literary Fiction? Would you read it? Are you an ebook fan or a paper-book fan, or like, me, a bit of both?

The Best Advice on Writing I’ve Ever Received


Daily (w)rite went on an involuntary hibernation last week due to a WordPress Technical glitch. But thanks to the awesome staff at WordPress, it is back, and so is the Writers’ Guest Post Schedule for November.

Today we have amazing writer, and lovely blog-friend Corinne O’Flynn. She is here to talk to us about how writers ought to treat their writing, so without further ado, I hand over the post to Corinne:

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This might sound strange coming from someone who has yet to have her book published, but bear with me. There are ways to measure the quality of your writing before it is published.

There is so much advice out there about writing and paths to publication, much of it is right on. It runs the gamut from grammar, to character development, world building, and the practice of writing itself.  If you’re like me, a lot of this advice speaks to you relative to your own work.

The best advice I’ve ever read comes from Jane Friedman through an article that was printed in Writer’s Digest Magazine last July/August. For the writer who has publishing aspirations, this is important. You ready? Ok, here it is:

“You have to view your work not as something precious to you, but as a product to be positioned and sold.”  - Jane Friedman

The Best Writing Advice I've Ever Received

The Best Writing Advice I've Ever Received

I will remember forever being on a plane and reading those words. I had a gigantic “aha moment” and sadly was stuck in my seat, alone, with no one to share my epiphany. I must have read the article twenty more times while on that flight. Those words resonated with me and as soon as I could get back to my desk and my work, they found their way into my revisions.

The results were interesting. Once I took to revising my own writing with this outward-facing view in mind, I was able to see the things in my writing that were holding my work back—holding me back.

My ability to identify and therefore cut the junk and improve pacing became sharper. I could locate the places in my work where my own writer’s pride kept me from cutting something I thought was especially fabulous, even though it had no place in my work.

Did I instantly start getting nibbles from publishers and sell my books at auction? No, but responses to my work changed overnight. My critique partners didn’t know what I was doing differently, but they felt that something had changed and the quality of my work had improved. My entries into writing contests started getting positive attention. My confidence in my work skyrocketed.

Approaching your work as something you want to sell and not as a slice of your soul changes what you see when you’re reading it. For the better. The results can be the difference between writing that is genuinely good and writing that grabs hold of your reader and takes them for a ride.

Writer Corinne O'Flynn

Writer Corinne O'Flynn

Bio:
Corinne loves to write about fictional dark and fantastical things. You can find her on her blog and on twitter@CorinneOFlynn

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Thanks Corinne, for the wonderful post, and now I open the floor for questions and comments from readers!

Daily writing exercise, flying in the river


A river is made for floating, not flying

Dream-flying in a river

They fly in the river, these people.

Because life comes slow to them, their massive wings, and the water lifts them but little, they have to let their sinews bend and twist, work hard at keeping them aloft, far above the bottom which is a sort of destiny and death.

Each of them can be anything, a straight line, a dusty horseshoe, an exploding seaweed, a violent flower, a taxi upturned, a vertical road, a bashed-up song, a thought without a ladder, a dancing boat, a frequency of being, an empty corridor.

But they choose to be in their bodies, the atoms of their being imploding with effort, forever trapped in a rigid path, swimming on the seams of the ocean, where they could be the blue fabric that builds it instead.

Their wings tire, those things of vapid effort, each bone and feather contracts and revolts, yet they hold them together, trying to rise, forever looking down, afraid of falling.

They do not know all they have to do is surrender.

Not fly, but float, not think, not feel, just be.

Then falling and flying would be the same, life and death will mingle, fear and exhilaration would be the water itself, and they could be inside of their winged bodies or out, it would but matter little.

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219 words, 10 minutes. Random words, lines, an exercise in timed writing based on a picture prompt. Daily writing exercises can be such a fun, unwinding, unraveling time. Just a river of words, simple.

Writing Tooth by Tooth


Lloyd Jones "The book of fame"

Lloyd Jones "The book of fame"

“Sometimes writing everyday is like pulling out your teeth, painful but necessary.”

That perhaps describes my writing just now. Down with Laryngitis, and not very cheerful otherwise, writing has become a chore. But can’t give up. Nope.

Reading “The Book of Fame” by Lloyd Jones in bed. What an absolutely inspiring book of prose and lyricism. And yes, about not giving up!

Writing, Publishing


A big part of writing is getting published. It completes the writing process.

But my current approach to is: keep working at your writing, keep sending things out, but don’t be too crazy about being published, everything in its own time. Polish your craft, so you don’t put something out in to the world that would make you cringe later.

This post talks about the same thing….and it makes me feel better.

Writing in vacuum without an argument


It is nice sometimes to be able to pick up a pen and write about nothing in particular. A river of writing, brooking no argument, obstacle, or dead ends. And years later, to find those lines and realize they were about something, after all.

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Visit my website: Amloki.com

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