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Writing

The Day I Decided to Become a Writer

 

Someone asked me when did I start writing. It took awhile for me to answer because I couldn’t tell an exact date. Okay, let’s rewind… let’s go back to where I started making up stories… back when I was a kid.

You see, I never thought that my ability to make up stories for role-playing with my dolls and playmates would help me become the writer I am now. And creating stories helped me get along with my classmates when out teachers assigned us to make role plays inside the classroom.

And so was writing poems. During my grade and high school days, writing a poem was easy. I remembered writing a long poem about music for the school newspaper. I also remembered making poems using the letters of my classmates’ names, and they appreciated it. But today, I couldn’t even write a haiku or a sonnet. I figured that I’m now more of a writer of prose than a poet.

Writing for the school paper in high school extended until college. No, I did not pass UST’s The Varsitarian qualifying exam. But I did pass the qualifying exam for The Purple Gazette. There was even a time that my stipend doubled because the printed story I wrote did not carry my byline and was full of typographical errors. But I never thought writing stories and articles would be my profession now.

Before graduation, my Filipino professor asked me to write a short story for a textbook for high school students. That was my first published story outside of writing for a school organ. It was unpaid, it didn’t carry my byline, and I didn’t mind. I never thought I could be ghostwriting for someone else that early.

Fast forward a few years after… I enrolled in a Creative Writing workshop in 1998. I already had in mind a story that would become a novel. I entitled it Caduceus, named after the medical insignia. It was about the life working in a hospital, like those medical dramas on TV. Fast forward a bit to 1999… I resigned from my job and joined screenplay writing workshops and the Caduceus novel I had in mind became Sa Likod ng Puting Uniporme, the screenplay. The rest, I should say, was history. So that was the first time I decided to become a writer.

Related blog: From Caduceus to Silver Linings Playbook

But writing had its ups and downs. I struggled to make both ends meet to support myself. And after giving birth, I stopped.

When my daughter turned one and a half years old, I decided to go back to work, not a writing profession though. Everyone around me said that writing as a profession would not support my family’s needs. So I worked for seven years in the BPO industry. However, something bugged me: a concept I started back in 2002. So I decided to become a writer again, to finish the novel once and for all.

Related blog: Number One Fan

True enough, I did finish Number One Fan and had it published on Foboko and Free-eBooks.net. I started to regain my confidence in writing.

But things turned out differently in 2014 when I accepted a teaching position in an arts and technology school. So I put aside my novel-writing, not totally give up on it since I was able to come up with The Vixens that year. But after a minor operation last June 2015, I decided to take a rest, work at home, and hopefully finish the novel I’m writing.

So if ever someone asks me when was the time I decided to become a writer, I’ll answer: thrice, back in 1999, 2012, and 2015.

the vixens

The Vixens

The original plan on The Vixens was a 6-part erotica series in the tradition of Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives. It was originally a ghostwriting project for an erotica website in the UK and the instruction was to “make it titillating to women readers (the market).” However, my client and I parted ways in the later part of 2012 and since they’re not going to use my stories, I can keep them.

The series is about six women who call themselves Vixens (female foxes, female bitches); each has a story to tell about love and being a woman (a single mom, a divorcee, a mistress, a widow, a wife, and an old maid). The grand alumnae homecoming becomes the common scene on all six stories.

After writing a few chapters (and a few sex scenes, too), I asked myself, “Where’s the fine line between sexy romance and erotica?” or “How far could you get to write erotic scenes without being tagged as pornographic?”

Related link: On The Edge: The Power of Titillation

However, during the course of writing, the timelines have changed after the client edited the first story. I had to straighten out the timelines while revising the second story and started writing the third. And shortly after that, I said goodbye to my client.

In the 2013 NaNoWriMo, I decided to start from zero, use the idea from these stories to come up with a trilogy.  This erotic novel made me reach the 50,000 word goal for the first time in my second year in NaNoWriMo.

I still don’t have an outline for the last three women although the Vixens should be complete and deserves a sequel. The big question is when.

Grab your FREE copy here or from Free-eBooks.net of my first erotica, The Vixens, and let me know what you think. Feel free to give me suggestions for the last three stories. I’ll be looking forward to it.

number one fan

Number One Fan

In 2002, I planned to write a trilogy about three newscasters, each having a story to tell. Inspired by The Bestseller by Lila Ramsey and The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie, I challenged myself to write a mystery-thriller using the nursery rhyme Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star as a clue.

It is about a newscaster who receives a bouquet of flowers and a phone call from someone who calls himself her Number One Fan. His message was to make him number one or else, someone will die. She dismissed it as a mere prank.

After a week, the police found her journalism professor dead. She then realized that it was not just a joke. With only the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star as her clue, she has to guess who Number One Fan is and who will be the next victim as journalists around her start to die one by one.

I wrote the first part of the Filipino trilogy, The Ratings Game in April 2002. However, while writing the second part, News Scam, writer’s block set in. I was stuck. I felt there was something missing but I could not figure it out. Therefore, I put it aside, hoping to find an answer in the future.

I never thought that “future” would take years. However, the idea still holds in my mind, wanting release. By the way, the third part was supposed to be entitled, Breaking News.

In 2011, while sorting out old files, I found the original manuscript, typewritten from a manual typewriter. Nine years have passed, and typewriters no longer exist. I re-typed the manuscript in my computer hoping to find a new stimulus while retyping and revising just to finish the Filipino novel. However, I felt something was still missing.

In 2012, I decided to join the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time. I used the original concept and wrote everything from scratch this time in English. The characters and plot have changed since then. Although short of 50,000 words by the end of November, I continued revising the story after NaNoWriMo. I finished the manuscript with 51,907 words, 40 chapters, and 208 pages on 27 May 2013.

On 6 June 2013, Foboko released Number One Fan, the novel I conceptualized in 2002. I felt relieved that the concept has finally found its way in publishing. Talk about being patient for eleven years. It was a long wait worth it. A few days after that, Free-eBooks.net released Number One Fan on its website. It is available online in .pdf, .txt, ePub, Mobipocket and a variety of formats compatible with Kindle, Sony, iPad, and other readers.

Since then, every November, I join NaNoWriMo to write a novel. Not necessarily the sequel, although I have plans of writing one.

That same year, I entered the novel in a contest. One of the judges in the Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Award said that,

This has a really unusual and interesting setting for a mystery novel. This reader does not recall ever reading a book set in newscasting, or in the Philippines, which lends a really original cast to the whole story. Regine is clearly is a strong and capable woman, and her sense of family and responsibility as well as ambition keep the reader on her side. Overall it is a strong idea for a story and a setting that could support sequels.

This comment inspired me to go on writing. Until now, I am still not giving up on my trilogy.

To celebrate the success of my first NaNoWriMo novel, Number One Fan, you can download it here for FREE.

Is Bullying Disguising as Bad Reviews

Is Bullying Disguising as Bad Reviews?

Recently, while surfing the social media, I chanced upon a post where someone bashed J. K. Rowling and her Harry Potter series. Then somebody replied to that comment saying, “I’d like to see you do a better job! Write an extraordinary novel, sell more books and gather more fans and if you can do it…then say what you feel!”

As a writer and author, I do share the same sentiment. The guy has a point.

Then I received an email update from a group I joined in GoodReads announcing the change of our group’s moderators. The announcement was so intriguing that I decided to check the group’s Facebook page. And there I learned the whole story.

It all started with a bullying incident on a soon-to-be published author, Lauren Pippa. Lauren was about to release her romance novel, Learning to Love. However, when she decided to post her book on GoodReads (probably to announce its release), she was bombarded with negative reviews that already bordered or has gone beyond cyber-bullying.

Our moderators defended Lauren by posting a discussion thread on GoodReads and on the group’s Facebook page. The moderators showed those hateful posts then suddenly they were removed as moderators (that’s how I read and understood the situation).

Lauren conducted herself professionally and responded to the reviews well. I salute her for that. Although she has decided not to release her book anymore, she said “she has moved on, that she’s shutting herself off from this and living her life”. She deleted her blogs after that.

As an independent author, I feel sorry for Lauren. In an entertainment world we have, negative reviews from legitimate critics and so-called reviews can’t be avoided. Everybody has his own opinion.

I do hope Lauren continues to write and release her novel soon. Not because it will get additional publicity after this incident but because many readers, especially those who prefer the romance genre, would be interested to read it in support primarily of the reading interest and secondly of the author.

On the other hand, critics’ attitude should be more professional and objective. As what the guy had commented earlier, these critics should be writing novels, too, to feel the agony authors feel before, during, and after the writing process. Any author would respect a critic’s opinion if the latter has written something good or has established his credibility in literary criticism, rather than receiving a bashing from a “critic” who hasn’t published a single fiction.

What do you think? Is this considered cyber-bullying?

From Caduceus to Silver Linings Playbook

From Caduceus to Silver Linings Playbook

When I was a kid, I dreamed that I would become a doctor someday — wearing a white uniform, a nameplate with a Caduceus insignia, and a stethoscope hanging on my shoulder. But something changed that and shifted my attention to creative writing.

Yes, I was bitten by the writing bug on my graduation year. A classmate couldn’t believe that I was reading On Writing Well by William Zinsser instead of our Notes on Microbiology inside the UST Main Library, Humanities Section. However, it took years before the great paradigm shift happened.

While managing a small clinic in Makati, I attended a Creative Writing workshop. At that time, a story which I temporarily titled Caduceus brewed in my mind. It was a story based on the medical profession, just like the TV series St. Elsewhere, ER, and Chicago Hope. The story just stayed inside my head until a year later when I joined a script writing workshop sponsored by the Film Development Foundation of the Philippines (FDFPI).

To graduate in the workshop, everyone had to write a screenplay. So Caduceus became Sa Likod ng Puting Uniporme. After a few feedback from my mentor, Nestor U. Torre, I decided to enter the script in a screenwriting competition that same year. Fortunately, it became Finalist/Honorable Mention and got to meet the late National Artist and film director Eddie Romero. But Sa Likod ng Puting Uniporme never became a film.

Fast forward to the present. Recently, I received a writing assignment that required me to watch Silver Linings Playbook and to write a movie review cum term paper in Psychiatric Nursing. I was thankful that I have a background on the medical sciences. The information came in handy.

I may not be practicing my professions but I am proud of my classmates and friends who made it there. I just hope that they are also proud of me in my chosen field. The admiration is just mutual.