So after about 18 months after sending in my manuscript, it’s finally gone to print. We’re finally done with edits, layouts, blurbs, and author profiles, and I could very well see my debut novel at the end of March.
The general consensus is that local English novels have a hard time finding traction here in Malaysia, especially those in the sci-fi and fantasy genre, so I’m proud to be among the handful of other traditionally published sci-fi writers in the country.
I’d never in a million years thought I’d ever go anywhere in fiction, so here’s to never giving up on your dreams.
Of course, it would be poor form to put out an article that doesn’t offer any value, so here are some of the things I’d learned throughout this entire journey. Enjoy!
1. It’s not all about writing
I used to think that writing a novel was the hardest part. You embark on an adventure that might never end. Maybe it won’t make it out of the slush pile. Maybe you won’t even finish writing it.
I remember questioning my choice of quitting my day job to write a novel. What a grind, I’d tell myself every day. This is such hard work!
But you know what’s worse? Editing the damn thing. Then writing a synopsis. Then going through another few rounds of editing with the publisher. Then there’s marketing.
Oh, marketing. No writer goes into the industry thinking about marketing, yet here we are, trying to build an online presence to best supplement our craft.
Then you have the reviews to look forward to—or lack thereof. You have the promotional videos you need to be a part of. You need to know how to navigate publishing contracts. Then it all starts over when you write your new book.
I know that most of you want little else other than to just write. I do too. But there’s no escaping your peripheral duties. And don’t for a second think that self-publishing frees you from that. If anything, you’ll have to cover more bases should you go down that path.
2. You gotta keep your story at arm’s length
My main character was initially thirty years old, and he lived in a generic sprawl, not much different from the worlds of Philip K Dick or William Gibson. The final product is a nineteen-year-old boy trying to navigate the electronic bureaucracy of a futuristic Kuala Lumpur.
Of course, the publisher did give me options, so it wasn’t like I was forced to change anything, but it behooves writers not to get too attached to their work.
I was fine with the changes because my previous experience as a journalist has taught me that there’s nothing to gain from hovering over your story like a helicopter parent.
This is especially useful for when the reviews start popping up on Goodreads. At some point, your story ceases to be yours, and even if you get to do things your way with the publisher, you’ll never be able to do the same for every reader ever.
3. Big goals are just many small achievements put together
No matter how many words you put out a day—five hundred, a thousand, two thousand—there’s no escaping the long grind of daily writing to end up with your finished manuscript.
Of course, it might not seem like you’re making any progress when all you have at the end of the day is just another five hundred words, but one day you’ll check your word counter and realise that you’ve reached the 80,000 mark, and that’s where you’ll get your newfound appreciation for consistent effort.
It’s just like everything else in life. It’s easy to put off eating that salad instead of that burger, because what’s one meal, right? Who cares if you have a few beers today? And why should you waste time on five hundred words when Netflix is so much more enjoyable?
But it’s these little things that add up to your grandest dreams, so the next time you’re thinking of cutting yourself some slack, you best believe that they’ll cost you much more in the long run.
4. Don’t disqualify yourself before others do
Writers tend to be a critical bunch, especially to ourselves. I’ve had so many negative thoughts before sending my manuscript in for that novel competition.
My plot sucks, I told myself. Same like my characters, and my setting, and what’s a sci-fi piece doing among the more contemporary titles of years past?
What would I have missed out on had I listened to myself? And how many lies have I believed throughout my almost-forty years of living?
Nowhere is this point more obvious than when I publish a first draft on the blog, half tipsy and without a coherent structure, and still I get more support for it than my well-planned ones.
So if you’re a creative of any sort, don’t judge yourself. Just put your work out there and then judge yourself. Do it the other way around and you too might miss out on some snazzy opportunities.
5. Passion doesn’t mean love
In retrospect, while I was writing my novel, I feel like I dreaded writing more often than not. Yes, I love writing, and yes, I love the craft, but when it came time to sit at the keyboard, my mind would give me a thousand reasons why I should procrastinate instead.
You shouldn’t take this as a sign of disinterest. It’s no different than exercising or practising your musical scales. Growth happens only outside your comfort zone, so it makes sense that you’ll harbour a certain disdain for anything that moves you forward.
But life’s not a bed of rose-tinted glasses, or however that saying goes, so you’re going to have to do the things other people don’t like doing, so that you can achieve what they can’t.
And if it was easy, the payoff’s probably not worth it anyway.
If I could do it…
I always like to highlight the fact that I’m a Malaysia-based writer with no formal education other than a random accounting diploma and a hairdressing certification.
Because if someone like me can do it, why can’t you?
Pre-orders for my book have started and you can order yours here. I appreciate your support!