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)

U is for Under


Writing prompt: UNDER

Provided by: Claire Goverts via Twitter. Please visit her excellent blog, and drop me some prompts for V, W, X, Y,Z. I find I need them all.

Genre: Fiction

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I don’t know about you, but when I look at me, I like what I see.

I like, for instance, the star that used to stop less than an inch above my cleavage. It stood out, blue and proud, the first tattoo I got me made, to remind me I could survive.

They marched me into and out of prison with a bunch of kids my age, which was twelve. Not the number of kids, my age. The star that time was at an innocent place, but it became a challenge to all that dared question my right to do with my life as I will.

That phoenix you see on my arm, I got it when first I fell in love. I had risen, I said, above all the hate given me and found it in me to love.

Each flower, each colored cloud, each letter, every sword, every petal, each verse, running into each other has meaning, some of which has escaped me.

I would not let the colors fade, I said, the primroses on my stomach would not wither and fall, the snake that crawls up my leg would not lose its way in a maze of wrinkles.

My skin is not a covering, it is what holds my body together, I said.

Now that my eighties are far behind and I no longer have a cleavage, when it is hard for me to swallow sometimes, when I remember each slow moment of what happened fifty years ago, but forget what I had for lunch, or if indeed I had one; I know not just my skin, but my body is a covering.

The colors of the tattoos have seeped into my soul, and even when the body is gone, the colors will remain.

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I’m tweeting A to Z posts at #atozchallenge  There is also the A to Z Challenge Daily with links to Tweeted A-Z posts over the last 24 hours.
Thanks and shout-outs to organisers Arlee Bird (Tossing It Out) , Jeffrey Beesler’s (World of the Scribe),  Alex J. Cavanaugh (Alex J. Cavanaugh) , Jen Daiker ( Unedited), Candace Ganger (The Misadventures in Candyland) , Karen J Gowen  (Coming Down the Mountain) , Talli Roland ,  Stephen Tremp (Breakthrough Blogs )

S for Sacrilege


Sacrilege, writing prompt

S is for Sacrilege

Writing prompt: SACRILEGE

Provided by:  Joy fellow participant of the A to Z challenge.Visit her! Please PLEASE leave me prompts if you haven’t already! :)  I need prompts for T, U and V most desperately!!

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Today is the day the rain on the window sill at night would bring fear, and loathing, and pleading for mercy. But not to me, for once.

It will stop her breath in her lungs, the words in her mouth,  the bile in her stomach, and the slaps and kicks she has marked me with, my mother.

That word seems an alien thing. Mother. I have seen bitches take care of their puppies inside the drain under the culvert. She feeds them when they whine, licks them clean, and nuzzles them from time to time.

But not ours. Today when I came back from school, I saw the same welts on my baby brother’s back that I always see on mine in the bathroom mirror. She must have been in one of her drunken rages. Even grown men are scared of her now, of who she becomes when her nostrils flare and her eyes shrink, and from her neck a slow red creeps up to her face.

I have no father, and my uncle, his brother, is the Father at the church. Sacrilege he would call it, wait for God to smite her.  I’ll remind her again of her duties, he’ll say, have Faith, my son. But my baby brother is six. My sister, three. They will not live long if she lives, and I cannot wait for God much longer.

I’m fourteen, my ankles and wrists are too long and bony for my clothes, but it is up to me to be the man.

Without her, I’ll have a family. Without her, the world would be a better place. If it is Sacrilege, so be it.

Tonight is the night I’ll stop her.

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I’m tweeting A to Z posts at #atozchallenge  There is also the A to Z Challenge Daily with links to Tweeted A-Z posts over the last 24 hours.
Thanks and shout-outs to organisers Arlee Bird (Tossing It Out) , Jeffrey Beesler’s (World of the Scribe),  Alex J. Cavanaugh (Alex J. Cavanaugh) , Jen Daiker ( Unedited), Candace Ganger (The Misadventures in Candyland) , Karen J Gowen  (Coming Down the Mountain) , Talli Roland ,  Stephen Tremp (Breakthrough Blogs )

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.

Sarawak Crocodile, Kuching Snapshots


Sarawak River Crocodile, Kuching

Sarawak River Crocodile, Kuching

If you look at the photo, the stuff hanging on top is my writing for today, and the one making a go for it, is me…

The Argument for Writing as Therapy


“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those, who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear, which is inherent in a human condition”

Graham Greene: The Argument for Writing as Therapy

Graham Greene: The Argument for Writing as Therapy

So says Graham Greene. He should know, because his biography bears witness to how writing became therapeutic in his own life.

“The recurring themes of treachery and betrayal in Greene’s writing stem from his troubled school years where he was often tormented for being the headmaster’s son. After several suicide attempts, Greene left school one day and wrote to his parents that he did not wish to return. This culminated in his being sent to a therapist in London at age fifteen. His analyst, Kenneth Richmond, encouraged him to write and introduced him to his circle of literary friends which included the poet Walter de la Mare.”

There is no denying that most writers use their personal experience to base their fiction, but somehow, I find that I do my worst writing when I try writing as therapy. It is always the unselfconscious writing exercise that gives birth to an interesting character, or a particular voice.

It is this character that takes over in later drafts, and the story forms of itself. In fact, in my writing, I feel like my only credit lies in editing and /or re-writing.

Writing for me is less therapy and more entertainment, a sort of interesting time-suck that leads to stories, more or less involuntarily.

I have tried writing on the basis of an idea, a place, an experience. But it always seems forced. Only when they go somewhere deep into my unconscious and surface much later that they resonate with me, and I hope, would do so with my eventual audience.

Daily writing exercise, here I come.

Writing and self-doubt


And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.

~Sylvia Plath

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I’ve come across many budding writers who are scared to open up, to write about what affects them the most. It takes courage to spill out blood and guts. I’m not sure yet if it is ok to publish it as it is, unchanged, but it is definitely necessary to write down the experiences. These experiences, when dug out mercilessly and without self-pity, form the fount of some of the most moving fiction.

Write or Die


Writing practice ideas

I’ve been having a lot of fun with Write or Die these past few days. I always choose the Kamikaze option, and the best I’ve manged is about 600 words in ten minutes, but that is also cos I’m a lousy typer! Well, the output is hardly presentable, but between this site and Onetwofiver I’m all sorted out where writing practice is concerned. Not stuff you would send to an editor, but the kind of garbage that needs to come out before you start your writing day. Today’s onetwofiver led to this:

The joy of writing lies in letting a world, people and events emerge in my head, and then jump through the portal of my hands on to a screen or paper, from where they can make the transition into another head, another imagination. They then transmute, change, take on different appearances. For no two heads can ever have the same fancy, and fancy colors all to which it is a home.

On some days it is hard, and meaningless. There is no thought, let alone creation. But who knows, these could be good days too, because it is in the land of no thought that the biggest ideas are born.

Thought is an enemy to a certain extent, it can be allowed in only when the muse has done her mad dance, her hair flying, her laughter ringing in the imagination. She adjusts her clothes, changes her stance, and spreads her cloak holding all that shine and sparkle and darkness under her, giving birth to people, to ideas, to entire worlds.

And then comes thought, with its twin blades of logic and reason, and sets about cutting and snipping and trimming. And finally they are ready, the children of my muse, to travel using the written word, to invade curious minds, to make new homes in different arbors of imagination.

How do you like to do your daily writing practice?

Writing exercise


Under this dress, I’m a body, washed, scrubbed, massaged, oiled, glossed, buffed, painted. I’m here not for the men, but for you.

You can have what I have, my body is natural, see? Oh, I do take care of myself, but so can you. Within your budget too. Come, let me show you how. Let’s do it shall we?

You can get my gorgeous body, my job at the fab magazine, my smashing millionaire boyfriend with the Ferrari, my dresses and my diamonds.

You can have it all too, never mind if you stay in a seedy loft at the other end of town. You can do it! Remember, I started off just like you. Just pick me up from the news stand and let’s go home, where I’ll tell you all my secrets.

Writing about Writing in Class


I have been going to a creative writing class the last three weeks, each Thursday evening.

Our teacher made us do an interesting exercise yesterday. We had to write a word or phrase for each of the following, off the top of our head, and these were my responses:

A feeling: Tired

A colour: White

A food: Pasta

A sound: Honk

A texture: Rough

Something you’ve said or thought today: Have a nice vacation

An object you’ve handled: Cell phone

The name of a person you know or have known: Anna

She then asked us to write a sentence including as many of the responses as possible, with a minimum of three.

This was my sentence:

Anna is tired, so for dinner she throws together some pasta, loving its white body, its smooth-rough, rough-smooth texture.

Then, our teacher asked us to make that sentence the first line of our story, something, anything we could write in ten minutes. Here is the stuff I wrote:

Writing about blood and spaghetti

Writing about blood and spaghetti

Anna is tired, so for dinner she throws together some pasta, loving its white body, its smooth-rough, rough-smooth texture. She slurps it in, checking if it is al dente, burning her tongue. She thinks of the things she did today, the uniforms, the scrubbing rooms, the conversations. She sets the pasta to drain and stirs up the sauce, the red tomatoes reminding her of the blotches on the white towels as the little girl bled on her table. Anna’s table.

The girl bled, bled, bled, making the nurses scurry here and scurry there, looking for clips, more towels.But Anna had cut into the wrong place, a main artery so near the heart would pump blood, keep pumping it out, the heart unaware of the blood spilled.

Anna makes herself turn to the pasta, now drained, white, but no longer inviting, the spaghetti strands flowing like bloodless veins. They have gelled into a gooey mess, sticky-gooey and the pale white looks too much like the white girl’s white face, and the whiteness of her father as color drained out of him.

Anna mixes the sauce into the pasta, stirring it slow, willing it back to life, then gives up. She picks up the whole lot, chucks it into the bin. She switches off the kitchen light which had begun to give her a headache, and walks out towards the patio to have a drink.