Friday, November 23, 2007

Sat at Litblogger's Club

Tan Twan Eng draws the crowd in! But seriously, everyone is so delighted we have our very own Malaysian Booker Prize long-listed nominee in our midst to give us tips! The area was packed to overflowing and everyone was pumped for lively discussion.

Things I have learned from Tan Twan Eng:

1. He corresponded only through email to lit agents with a cover letter and his first 3 chapters. Apparently, nobody snail mails anymore! He just went through a list of agents who are interested in representing the genre.

2. He took 1 year to write the book and 8 - 10 months to revise it. From 220,000 words, he cut it down to 160,000. He was also asked to shift certain sections around to make it more readable.

3. He set it in WW2 because it was a part of history most people around the world will identify with. When you write a book for the international market, he says, you've got to reach out to the largest section of readers possible. You can't do that if you write contemporary Malaysia. (This of course provoked a much heated debate from the audience, but IMHO, Tan has got something there.)

4. He didn't have a plan when he started out to write. He just knew vaguely a beginning and an end. The rest is added on as he wrote it.

The 2nd speaker, D. Devika Bai ('The Flight of Swans, Monsoon Books), also gave marvelous insights.

1. She did a lot of research because she set the novel in WW2 India, moving to Malaysia, then back to India.

2. She sent her manuscript direct to publishers, who were very kind to reply to her directly to tell her the good points and the 'buts'. A famous publisher actually told her she 'tells too much', not 'show'. For her 2nd book, she says she really made an effort to show, not tell.

3. She tried to get it published with Silverfish but at that time, Raman told her she started off the story in India, not Malaysia, and he'd rather she start it off in Malaysia to qualify it for Malaysiana.

After the sessions, it was get together time to network and catch up. Sharon Bakar actually told me something that really made my day; she told me how much she loved my previous DC1 story, 'Coup of the Century' because she absolutely did not see the ending coming, and that she thinks I write very good dialogue (?? I think my dialogue is one of my weak points in my writing and that's what's stopping me from writing screenplays!!). But thanks so much, Sharon, glad you liked the story.

And then she told me something else that was the icing on the cake - she says that Tan Twan Eng (who had already gone off for lunch) thinks I write really well and have an eye for storytelling - and I didn't know really whether to believe her or she was just pulling my leg! Of course, I will now have to confirm that with him. I didn't even know he bothered to pick up my book! I am so far removed from being a serious literary and historical writer as the moon is from poor demoted Pluto!

Thanks TTE (if that's true, of course!)

On to other things:


Sharon Bakar invites Dark City 2 writers to go on her Readings. I would like to recommend Jennifer Wan, Bissme S, Chua Kok Yee and Ahmad Azrai to go because I think the experience is going to be good. However, if anyone else wishes to go, please email me and I will give your name to Sharon.

I was also talking to Sharon and others about the terms 'jumping the shark', 'misdirect' and 'doublespeak', which are all screenwriting terms and how to twist your plot, and I did promise Sharon I'd blog about it in a later post.


Argus Lou said...

Yahoo! *jumping, leaping!*
Congrats, Xeus!
Sharon wouldn't pull your leg over something like that. I did tell you similar things zillions of years ago, didn't I?! But, of course, it sounds better coming from established editors, authors and creative writing teachers. ;-)

Xeus said...

Argus, remember, for every person who likes something, there's another who doesn't like that something for the very same reasons! But I'm so glad you are getting so many great reviews for your very satisfying story, "Till Death." You see how many people love it?

BTW, met Daphne yesterday and asked her if she would review:)

Lydia Teh said...

Thanks for blogging about it. Too bad I had to miss it :(

*When you write a book for the international market, he says, you've got to reach out to the largest section of readers possible* - I think this holds true for the local market too.

Am happy to hear that both Tan and Sharon likes your story telling. You do have a knack for it.

Xeus said...

Lydia, I missed you too yesterday. Hope you can make it for Jan 26th then, I don't want to talk alone, you can talk about your first foray into fiction :)

Tunku Halim said...

Xeus - It's wonderful to get such positive feedback about your writing. And Tan Twan Eng has a lot of good stuff to teach us writers.

Xeus said...

TH, I also get negative feedback :) We all do. Heard you are starting a creative writing class. That's wonderful!

Kokyee said...

Hi Xeus,
When will be the reading? I'll try to attend.

Xeus said...

Dear Kok Yee, I will give your name to Sharon. Then you just have to read a section of your story, The Penalty. BTW, Sharon thinks you are a very good writer :)