The Short Story and Me (2)

As a change, this week we are skipping author interviews. It will come back next week though.

Thought I will do a re-run on this since my stance on it has changed yet again now that I have broken off my association with the epub completely.
Previously, I’ve talked about myself as a writer and the pros and cons of short story writing as I experience it. In this post, I’m just going to cut to the chase and say that I’ve now definitely decided that for now, short story won’t be my focus unless I am doing a collaborative piece with another writer. Not only am I less experienced with the short story form but through personal experience, I’ve found that I really enjoy planning and writing a short story far less than I do of a novel.

I have a sprawling mind as I think Robin Hobb puts it, my natural tendency is to think up multi-plot stories held up by a substantial side cast. As such, I feel that it’s just a hassle to limit myself to the short story form which I feel, given my current expertise, is better for single-plot stories.
However, here comes the twist to the short story and me. Through chance, I’ve met another author on Facebook who has chatted me up to do a collaborative piece with him which is a short story/novella. We are going to finalise the story concept this month and then start writing this collab piece.

Forgiving and Closed Doors

To an event experienced yesterday and the one who sent me the email:

Forget and forgive,

I’m not ready for you.

Fully aware of my own faults,

I was nevertheless hurt.

I’m applying the best cure for my wounds:

Time and Distance Away.

 

On a more uplifting note, concurrent to the above event I remembered the following from when I first got my graduate job after being one of the latest of my Honours cohort to get an offer:

Don’t lament Closed Doors,

They are often the wrong ones for you.

The Right Door will open

If you are Patient and Persistent.

 

 

What I learnt from the ePub (2)

Continued on from my post last week, here’s what I learnt about communication and collaboration from my involvement in the epub:

Communication

  • Never speak to each other under the influence of emotion. This doesn’t mean you push your own emotions aside or never speak up for yourself. Just wait till you feel you are calm before you start compiling your email responses or in the case of chat, just say “I’m not calm now, I don’t want to speak any more, we carry where we leave on now another day”. But make sure that you do actually come back to it with the other person promptly otherwise it’s like leaving stuff on the burner without attendance.
  • Words can hurt and there’s no means to undo or take back hurt. It doesn’t matter that your intention wasn’t to hurt and the other person misunderstood your intentions. If someone actually tells you that they have issues with your words/conduct, acknowledge their feelings first and then explain about your original intention. Please don’t rush to dismiss the other’s feelings (remember that all feelings are valid, you can disagree with other people’s opinions, you can’t disagree with other people’s feelings) and justify yourself by saying that the other person is just over-reacting or have an agenda against you.
  • To fulfil the purpose of real communication, both parties need to be assertive as opposed to aggressive or submissive. It’s not good enough that you intended to communicate but phrased things so aggressively that the other person gets offended and you effectively say “I’m just being yourself, I’ve always been like this, if you understand my true intentions, why are you taking me up on phrasing issues?” Well, if you really mean to communicate, the basic idea is to get the content of what you want to say across to the other person, not some negative tone underlying your words which then triggers adverse feelings in the other person who then closes down in intellectual comprehension due to such feelings. So really, everyone please read over your own emails before sending them off and when someone reports that they are upset over certain phrasing of yours, just acknowledge this as being valid.

Collaboration

  • This is specific to my own personality but it is almost a prerequisite for me to actually work out some basic premise of the conditions surrounding the collaboration before joining rather than jumping on board based on emotions and specifically friendship. I already had a taste of this when I automatically agreed to be my best friend’s bridesmaid but then pulled out upon further consideration. I’m happy to report that this didn’t end up blemishing our friendship but instead made it stronger. But in terms of the epub, this jumping on board on my behalf has been entirely disastrous. I actually wanted to discuss between all collaborators at the very start so we can work out differences or just compare notes in visions. But one collaborator of mine convinced me and everyone that we have an experimental enterprise and it’s better to fine-tune things as we go. And then it’s basically constant warfare between me and him because of our differing visions. Again, this is specific to me and him but I think in general, working out common grounds before a collaboration even started is a good strategy for ensuring group harmony.
  • When disagreements occur, don’t go for compromises. Instead, go back to square 1 and actually try to find the lowest denominator of agreement between the two of you over the issue and start from there.
  • Trust each other as collaborators. Don’t hold back when you encounter problems. Notify each other promptly. Especially don’t hold back with the view that you are sacrificing for the common good. If all of you are true collaborators, no self-sacrifices are needed, that is just some excuse you make up yourself because you are conflict avoiding in some way. And you can’t trust yourself to hold onto such a martyr attitude for the long term.
  • If you genuinely believe yourself to be incompatible with a collaboration, gracefully exit. No matter of your emotional attachment, if you’ve been genuinely accumulated a large stock of negative emotions associated with a collaboration venture and you just can’t resolve this with your collaborators, then just cut your ties. It’s really not worth your time, effort and emotional attachment to stay in a collaboration where you can’t work with people who share the same values with you.

That’s all of my self-reflection on the epub and it’s probably obvious that I went through some intense communication and relationship problems during the course of the epub. But I’m happy to report that I still feel that I gained more than I had lost and I have much more promising collaborative creative writing projects planned ahead with my other collaborator who co-wrote Empress with me in issue 1 of Excursions from the Citadel. I won’t be appearing in future issues of the Excursions beyond issue 3 but I’m not disappearing as a writer. You will continue to hear about writing updates from me so stay tuned.

What I learnt from the ePub (1)

Even though I ultimately decided that I’m a bad match for the Excursions epub, it has been a fruitful and educational enterprise for me across multiple areas. In this post, I would like to document all of the things I’ve learnt about myself as a writer and a person and about communication and collaboration. This is both for personal reference and general sharing.

Moonlake as a Writer

  • I am less a short story writer compared to a novel writer even though I had yet to finish a novel to date but had at least had a collaborative piece published in issue 1 of the Excursions from the Citadel and finished the first draft of my serial story Thread. I’ve always suspected this but through this epub, I actually find out exactly why: A short story is best matched to a single tight plot but I have a personal penchant for thinking up and preferring to write complex stories with multiple plot lines running parallel to each other AKA I’m Miss Complexity.
  • Some writers can write very fast and believe in writing very fast. I don’t. I like to work at my own pace and occasionally let things simmer so my speed fluctuates. But bottom line is that I am a slow writer overall. Sometimes I wish I’m faster but mostly I don’t. I like taking my time with things. It’s part of my life philosophy.
  • While I tend towards planning before writing (in fact, I just cannot completely wing it, I really need to plan somewhat before I can start writing anything), I still often under-plan. Part of this is an inability to completely imagine myself in the scene 100% of the time.
  • I’m very inflexible when actual writing starts deviating from m plan.
  • I really need to do pre-writing which I did for my stalled novel where I expand each scene out almost completely before I write actual words for a story. I discarded this completely for Thread, my solo serial for the epub and now things are in a mess in terms of revision.
  • I insist that I can’t function as a writer without feedback but I also need to balance this eager embracing of/chasing after feedback with an ability of reconciling feedback with my own author’s vision for the story where they differ. For Thread, the latter became an issue but luckily, I asked another contributing author for issue 2 for help and she very correctly encouraged me to pursue my own vision as the author.

Moonlake as a Person

  • I’ve always classified myself as mild-tempered and this is also my public image. Also, I’ve always abhorred conflict, whether it’s being involved myself or even just observing it. But when it comes to something I really care about, then my real temper can show and it did show for this epub. While it had led to ugliness, I celebrate the fact that I had stood for myself and my genuine feelings.
  • I still hold back too much, especially my own emotions. This only gives them a chance to fester, leading up to explosions later and grudges being built up with long shadows.
  • My intuition is strong and I should learn to trust it more.
  • While I tend to get along with everyone, there are certain communication styles that I dislike. I should accept this aspect of myself and remember it for future reference.
  • Internet friendships are to be taken cautiously as there are little that they are based on other than the words you write on a keyboard to each other. I shouldn’t have the expectation that they would be as steadfast as real life friendships. While this might not be true of and for everyone, I should again accept that this is just my nature.