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Brian J. W. Lee is a writer. When he's not writing, he's plotting to plunge the world in a deep chasm of terror, darkness and screams. Sorry, did I get carried away?

Sunday, 28 August 2016

An Introduction to Pulau Purba, Chapter 3: Rural Country Writing

Note: I made an edit on 01/09/2016. I wrote 80,000 words by the end of my Brunei writer's retreat/writer's residence, not 90,000. It's an estimate, but I remember clearly writing more than 1,000 words a day sometimes but not enough in total - Forcing me to writer far more than usual when I get back home to Singapore.

Where I last left off, I was talking about how the novel came to be, and I promised to go on talking about how I went about writing it after the initial push of 15,000 words in a month.

Now, 15,000 words a month might look like a lot, but even by minimal professional standards, is a slack-job. That pretty much amounts to about 500 words a day, something that could easily be done in half an hour or an hour tops if you hadn't broken a hand or something.

Stephen King prescribed 2,000 words a day, in addition to daily reading and other rituals. I've tried 2,000 words a day, and it just wasn't my speed... Yet. I guess I wasn't at ol' King's level, as expected. No, after the failure that was my first month, I prescribed a thousand, and intended to keep to it, by nook or by crook.

And I'd been planning for it. The causes for substandard performances could be many things - environment, people, writing equipment, yourself... I decided to narrow down the causes by flying to Brunei. The plan was to write - Just write there for two months.

I brought only the following:

- $1,000 for sustenance, and maybe some R&R. I ended up buying lots of snacks, some books (Stephen King can be found even in Brunei), some movies, peripherals to watch the movies. Everything was horror, for inspiration.

- My writing laptop and required peripherals. There are no games in it, until I started downloading a few from Steam one month in when I realised I was stressing myself too much. Still, the poor specs of the laptop ensures that I was only playing simple, pixelised games, so I wasn't too distracted.

- A Book. Stephen King's Desperation in particular. It occupied me for a month, and I'd just move on to buy more of his books when I was finished. Most importantly, it served as inspiration.

- The usual travelling stuff - Clothes, undies, toiletry kit. Still important not to neglect yourself or your writing will be neglected.

I was also given the following:

- Most important thing: Shelter. I was with my relatives, who gave me a room, fed me three meals a day. It's all I can ask for. It's basically like a clan-sponsored writers-in-residence program. Heh.

- Basic internet. Network was poor in Brunei. I ended up blowing something like $200 on internet access alone, until I decided to hook in with my cousins. Stupid of me - But I guess being very new to writing meant I haven't gotten rid of some of my pride yet. This would later be instrumental to my sanity, as it meant I was able to download some simple games to unwind with.

- Company. My relatives, their acquaintances and friends made up the bulk of my social encounters. I guess it's important for my sanity, though I'm starting to wonder if I'd sell better if my book contains the ravings of a mad man?

- (cont.) Anyway, people could go both ways. In this case, it did went both ways. I ended up getting into arguments with some of them, who act the part of a bunch of traditionalist, hyper-religious backwoods people. Most of them are fine though, being non-stereotypes who brought me around the country. The inspiration gained here from the good and bad could serve to provide me with novel ideas for years to come. In fact, I already have one: Traditionalist, hyper-religious backwoods cultists in rural country who decided to sacrifice their own relative for an Old One. Hah.

The result? Something like 65,000 words done, slightly more than the usual 1,000 words a day. The factors impeding my writing: Environment and people, were identified spot on.

But the novel was far from finished, even at 80,000 words.

In the next chapter of 'An Introduction to Pulau Purba', I wrap up the writing process that birthed 'The Keeper of Pulau Purba'. And then I'll move on to the world of Pulau Purba itself.

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