After returning from Pulau Purba- I mean Brunei, I was amped up, full of creative energy. Where others regenerate by taking a long holiday, I learnt that a writer's retreat (or writer's residence, depending on how you want to call it) was all I need.
So, I returned home with an 80,000 words manuscript. You'd figure that I was nearly done with the novel, right? Well, I thought so too.
If I remember correctly, The Keeper of Pulau Purba, as it is now titled, threw me a curveball in its plot. Funny how I phrased it. The Keeper is the main antagonist and puppeteer of the novel. And she wouldn't relent. No, she won't be defeated so easily.
The heroes in the novel were supposed to escape, but they were thrown right back in. They'd have to find another way out. The second act of the novel had to be lengthened, and the third act delayed.
But my writing speed wasn't a problem... The deadline for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2015 was. I had to hand it in within 2 months at the latest.
It wasn't a problem, I remember thinking then. So week after week, I wrote my 1,000 words a day, sometimes a little more. But the story kept going, never ending.
By the time I reached 120,000 words, I was panicking. I'd opened Pandora's Box. More creatures were pouring out. The Keeper turned out to be tough to overcome. I should have known, considering that she is a descendant, a spiritual successor of H. P. Lovecraft's Cosmic Gods.
Necessity is the mother of invention. In my case, a tight deadline is a recipe of heroic feats. As the deadline closed in on me with knives in hand and there appeared to be no end in sight for my novel, I started writing faster, and faster.
Until I was going at double speed on most days. I remember writing up to 3,000 or 4,000 words a day in the final chapters.
I had reached the Nirvana of writing in the final days. Somehow, 4,000 words, I remember, felt effortless - Writing is my passion, and near the end, I especially liked what I was writing. It was a bright, sunny day outside the window behind my desk, and my surviving characters had finally entered into the light, both literally and figuratively.
I remember concluding my novel a day or two from the deadline. 150,000 words. I had written 70,000 words in two months. I spent the little time I had left doing a few minor edits, and printing it out for submission.
I would go on to utterly lose the EBFP2015. There was no chance in hell that I could win - Considering that I had handed in a first draft with nearly no edits. But in the end, it didn't matter. I had completed my first novel. And it felt real, it felt like something I would dare to publish in over a decade since I started out as a lonely, awkward boy scribbling on an exercise book.
And you will get to see it, come hell or high winter, this year.