Confessions of A Storywriter

I had many dreams when I was still in childhood. Firstly, my main dream was ‘when I had grown up, I want to be an architect’. Wrong. I was not that great in Mathematics (especially in Physics), and my designs were overall awkward, and lifeless. (imagine you’re in a Communist country, and observe the square-shaped apartments which may make you feel humdrum) Then, as times went by, I aspired to become a surgeon. To know deeper about human anatomy was one of my main fascinations during those Primary-school days. Again, a big mistake. A bit phobic of blood, and fear of any ‘surgical failures’, suddenly made me cease my dream, once again. I also wished to become a cartoonist, to spin a yarn about social issues in forms of comic books, but again I failed. After I showed them to my parents, they told me, “Dull, awkward (the characters were physically awkward, because I just simply drew circles as their faces, straight vertical lines as their bodies, and horizontal lines as their hands and limbs), and unfunny.”

Life is just sometimes awesome – and weird. Sometimes you don’t need to dream something to come true; in some moments, it is instead the dream that comes to you yourself. I had been writing ‘unfinished’ novels when I was in 4th Primary (unfortunately, I had thrown the books somewhere into the trash, 4 years ago), all in full – and a bit broken – English. About a business thriller, as far as I could recall, about the brutal business competition, some kind of that. You know what, I was at that time inspired by Hong Kong TV serials my mom frequently bought in markets! But, as time goes by, the story was just getting weirder than before, as if the ending kept on being postponed, postponed, and, that’s the result.

In the first year of Junior High School, I subsequently ‘fell in love’ with Microsoft Word (attention: no intention to promote any Microsoft products). I also began writing stories, as usual, still ‘freshly’ inspired by those TV serials, but after a year, I once again failed to accomplish the stories. The stories, for me, were some sorts of half-baked ideas, not ‘freshly baked’ from my mind. In the second year, I shifted from much ‘serious’ matters into ‘teeny’ matters. I focused on fantasy genre, inspired by The Lord of The Rings. I intended to make the book thousand pages thick each, and I planned to make a trilogy. During the period, that was the time I began to imagine everything much further, from creating fantasy worlds, languages, fictional creatures, and everything based on my own which was imaginary in this universe. But, a year after, I began feeling bored with my fantasy world, as I thought that things were getting too irrational, were too much far away from the reality. I shifted from ‘idealistic writing’ to ‘realistic writing’, in which I prefer writing about contemporary social issues facing us today.

Let me tell you, writing novels is a very thoroughly intricate process. In the midst, there may come out intriguing temptations to force you to stop writing novels, as you haven’t reached the climax. But writing novels is not like cooking an instant noodle. In order to create such a great book, you will need firstly research, writing process, finding a publisher, and editing. Research may be in a few weeks (minimum requirement), or even a few years (to produce maximum satisfaction for the readers). Writing is a difficult process, as I admit it. I encountered many obstacles during the writing process, like, using any complicating vocabulary so that the novels would be more ‘cool’, thinking of what would happen to the characters in the future (especially, what events suit the most), and most important, how the stories would end.

I never expect to obtain any prestigious literary prizes, like Pulitzer, or Nobel, or Man Booker, whatsoever. Although, I confess, sometimes I dream about having my name cast in one of these awards, or three of them. Oh, I don’t have to dream that too much. There are actually many great authors whose novels receive raving reviews all the time, but never get their names cast in one of these prizes. From my own perspective, a real author is someone who never writes only to obtain such honor, but a real author is someone who writes from his or her own heart, from his or her own feelings, and deeply, from his or her own thoughts about the existing world.

In order to become a successful novelist, firstly, you have to read novels. That’s what the successful novelists themselves say. But, so far, I read only two novels. Firstly, it was The Road, written by Cormac McCarthy. It was a truly heartbreaking novel, set in a post-apocalyptic world as an unnamed catastrophe terminated most of the life forms on Earth, leaving very few people to survive. The story mainly focused on a dad and his only son (both were only named ‘The Father’ and ‘The Son’ throughout the story) who had to struggle days by days to survive from those few people who have turned themselves into cannibalists, as something had inhibited the sunlight from coming into the planet, and hence, there were massive crop failures worldwide, which caused massive riots and massacres. The other one was The White Tiger, written by Aravind Adiga, about the ‘wild side’ of Indian societies (read my previous book review for those who haven’t).

You don’t have to start from writing a novel, if you think that is too complicating. You can start writing somewhere. I don’t care whether you use ‘Write a Note’ facility on Facebook, or starting a blog, or writing some articles in websites, the best method to develop your writing skills is start writing. Start writing somewhere. Write, in whatever languages, doesn’t matter. If you’re good in English, then try your best in English. But, if you prefer Indonesian literature, then just write in Indonesian (don’t get scared; foreigners may translate your work into many languages). If you are great in both English and Mandarin, it is even better if you apply them in your writing. Try to express your feelings, your thoughts, something fascinating or irritating or frightening or touching in your life, but always try your best not to insult others’ feelings.

Let me tell you, when the topic you are writing comes to politics or something regarded as ‘sensitive issue’, you need to be careful. Some segments of the societies might just get discontented with what you are writing about, and they may consider you as their ‘enemy for a lifetime’. See, what’s happening to Salman Rushdie. After having The Satanic Verses published, many of the Muslims condemned his work and even called for ‘decapitation’, due to the content which – according to them – insulted Muhammad The Prophet (the author is Muslim, and had self-identity crisis). I myself had not personally bought this book, but it just made me more curious.

You don’t have to start from serious topics, like what I am doing. You can write anything, anything that fascinates or affects your life. Maybe you can write about your daily life in blog, or write something awesome that makes many people put a smile at your work. You can write jokes, anecdotes, or something informative about things many people have never heard before. Technology is getting much more advanced, people are getting ‘better’ than ever – although many people are slowly demoralized and more are ending up rattle-brained by committing misdeeds – so just enjoy this life. Write what you like, but please know about the limits on which you should write and which you should not.

If you are writing novels, you can write whatever you like. You can write any Twilight-inspired vampire-story copy-cats if you would like to; if you are interested in any ‘teen romance’, then just write them, and a lot of teenagers – as I hope – will like your stories. Thriller, that’s okay; make sure the stories you are writing are atmospherically intense and tautening. Historical fiction, that means you are knowledgeable; make sure you won’t create any events, on your own, which never happened, and will never, in the past. Write rationally, don’t exaggerate. Don’t write about ‘a Japanese invasion in Poland which marked World War II’; that’s NAZI’s, not the Japs’.Write a sci-fi story, and you have to be extremely imaginable; it is not science fiction if you don’t write anything irrational there. Imagine how the aliens look like, how other planets would be, how civilizations would be in thousand years to come, whether they are using nuclear-powered microwaves or fusion-powered light-speed cars or not, or how many megalopolises will arise far in the future. Be as creative as possible. Imagine if men could create domed cities under the oceans, or space stations, or even planet-sized space structures. If you write fantasy, try to create fantasy worlds. What creatures you’re going to make, whether they are dragons, or Orgs, or the hybrid of Greek gods and goddesses, for example, Medusa-faced Zeus; in fantasy, everything should be irrational. Maybe in your own fantasy novel, it could be like a better-than-Earth Venus, or the gigantic world named Jupiter where billions, or trillions, or even quadrillions, of god-like creatures live in, or even a galaxy beyond our knowledge where super-organisms with supernatural abilities dwell in. It could be whatever. You can create your own races, your own humanoids, your own cultures, or even religions, languages, towns, cities, or anything.

If you are writing non-fiction, try to write as genuine as the reality is. If you are a reporter, try to write like Ryszard Kapuscinski (personally, I have even never read one of his books). Wikipedia says (not me) that he has been considered worldwide as one of the most respected journalists of the century, who would travel to countries for months to report about the latest events happening in those countries. He has published many books, of which all were about his reportage on those countries. But most of the countries he travelled in were war zones, like African countries. If you want a ‘better’ position, why don’t you just be a travel writer? Prepare everything on a shoestring, explore to the countries that you want, read more information from other travel books, from other senior fellows who were a few dozen times much more experienced. Experience the countries you visit, the cultures, the people, the sceneries, everything you know about them! If you favor fashion, write anything fascinating about the latest fashion trends. About what products Coco Cenel, I’m sorry, Coco Chanel has recently launched. Or if you consider yourself ‘sports analyst’, then write anything interesting about the sports. There are many things in sports you can afford to write, for example, football, badminton, tennis, Wimbledon, Thomas & Uber Cup, Olympiade, boxing, soccer, golf, or those world-class athletes. If you like to ‘mind’ other people’s businesses, you can try to write articles about their businesses. If you like to motivate people, then write inspiring articles (to learn more, please ‘like’ Mario Teguh’s fan page, but it’s all in Indonesian). If you are a teacher, or a knowledgeable teacher, as I can say, then write as much as you know about everything, and share it with your students. If you’re an self-dubbed, self-taught environmentalist, then try to write about any interesting events related to ecological and environmental issues our world is facing nowadays. If you favor automotive-related topics, then try to write about them. Maybe about the latest four-wheeled vehicles, or the latest Harley Davidson motor. If you want to share your hobbies, then try to write anything about your hobbies, and share them with others. If you want to focus more on ‘religious matters’, then try to write them, and enlighten people. You can use any kinds of media, be it blogs, or newspapers, or magazines, or even in forms of books.

Maybe the most difficult part of all is publishing. It is still far from ‘mission accomplished’ for me to have my novels published – I am even unsure how old I would have been by the time they are getting published. Things are always uncertain in the future. You never know what’s going to happen in the future, whether it’s good or bad. But, always enjoy every moment today, and always prepare for the worst. The most important part is perseverance. The more you persevere, the more you will be strong.

I’ve been writing this article for one and a half hours. I hope this article gives you a much wider perspective you view on this world. Thank you.

N.B.: – I am now writing novels, so would you be so kind to send your ‘application letter’ to my e-mail address that you are willing to read them? This is optional, and you don’t have to send it.

Hola! It seems that I forgot to mention my e-mail address! This is it:

Send your ‘application letter’ here, thank you!


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