Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Write Way

Recently, I got a lot of students asking me how to break into writing.

It seems that they think being a writer involves smoking, drinking, and facing the computer in boxers or in the nude, writing stuff that people will pay for.


First of all, I'm not the best person to give advice. I don't have like, 20 years experience in the business. I have like, six. Or seven. So go somewhere else and suck someone else's dick.

I've worked in many sectors of the industry, and I can give some beginners' tips for those trying to break in.

1. Failures

Way back when I was 23, I joined a cult.

It pumped me up enough to believe that I can just say 'fuck you' to my Computer Science degree and my dreams of being a programmer, to pursue a career in writing.

So, I rummaged through some shit I have in my hard drive and came up with three short stories I had written.

Using it as writing samples, I applied for anything I could think of. I even approached Harper-Collins to see if they would want to get me as a writer.

I got rejected. Hahaha. But the editors were nice enough to point me in the right direction - out.

This is one of the stupid attitudes I see in beginners. They want other people to tell them how good they are and then give them a job, a hefty advance, suck their dicks, lick their vaginas and give them multi-million dollar cheques.

Look, it does happen. To like, one in a billion. Or perhaps one in 10 billion.

So. Forget it. It's not gonna happen. Get a job, you fuck.

No one likes you. Everyone thinks you're stupid. Boo fucking hoo. If you can't live with that, ram your head against a wall. Repeat until you die.

2. Newspapers

Failing to get my stories published, I sought to become a journalist. Just like Neil Gaiman.

Well, actually that is not true. Firstly, I did get published. In Silverfish. And I did not seek to become a journalist. I was just looking for a job. Cause I was tired of eating rice, fried eggs and Aji-Shio all day.

I sent my resume to over 60 companies that advertised for writers.

You wouldn't believe the kind of jobs available for writers. At insurance companies, they have form-fillers. These are writers assigned to refill any idiot's failed attempt at writing their own names and IC numbers in insurance forms.

Copywriting. Scripts. Translation. Subtitles. Proofreaders. Press releases. Menus. Websites. Banners. Anything and everything that is written, anywhere, needs writers.

I got lucky and ended up at a newspaper.

Just send your resumes, and contact the editors directly. Find out who they are first. And be prepared to stay as a temp worker for years, if need be. A year is normal. Three years is heard of. Six months is a world record.

It's a lot of work. Ask any journalist.

2. TV

I actually started out doing animation scripts for TV. The rate varies for half hour and one hour shows.

Just go and pop in anywhere where they do it. With a resume and writing sample.

Be warned, though. If you think the TV scene is like in the States, think again. This is Malaysia. Nuff said.

3. Movies

This one's tough. You have to be connected. You must have proven yourself somewhere else first.

Me? I was connected. I know people who know people.

It's not that complicated. And it's not that simple. But people who want to do movies usually end up doing movies. If they really want to.

If you're bold enough, try and convince a producer with your synopsis. Then work with the director for the breakdown and the flow. Be ready to change anything and everything in the story.

Watch a lot of movies.

4. Magazines

The easiest way to get into the business. But the hardest to define yourself as a writer.

Magazines have limited distribution. While major newspapers reach over 300K or a million readers DAILY, the top magazines sell like, 20,000 copies a MONTH. Of course, Variasari and Mastika are special cases.

As magazines take more time, your articles have to generally be better than average as well.

There are a LOT of magazines. I did something for someone and found out that there are over 2,000 titles under just ONE major distributor.

Magazines, though, they have a shelf-life of a few years. Then they die. Then a new one sprouts up, and you see the same faces. It's a cycle. Magazines that stay on either have strong financial backing or have strong financial backing.

5. Books


When you have enough time, write a book.

This is when you are confident enough with your material and your discipline to actually commit to a long-term project.



6. Comics

Deceptively easy, but so far remains the hardest one to do properly. money here. Go somewhere else. Shoo!


Still here? Go somewhere else. Forget it.

7. Important things

Gaiman, when asked about his advice to aspiring writers, wrote, "Write. Finish what you write."

I'm betting most people who 'likes to write' have at least 10 files in their My Documents folder which they never finished writing. I got over 40 unfinished stories. Sometimes, 10 documents of the same story. Written and rewritten over the years.

That's one of the reasons the size of my My Documents exceeds 5GB. That, and porn.

You wouldn't believe how many writers run away.

Sometimes, I get them jobs - stuff I can't handle alone - and they fucking run! Incommunicado for days, or weeks. Some, even months. And I end up having to do it myself. And get all the money, and glamour. And starlets sucking my dick.

Dude, you can't run away. Unless your daddy is some millionaire bastard motherfucker, this is the most important thing.

Sure, I wanted to run away numerous times. Had a few nervous breakdowns, only one of which I shared with a friend. Sometimes, you might feel like killing yourself. But never, ever run.

I never ran. Wanted to. REALLY wanted to. Didn't. Some of the best decisions of my life.

Or not.

Fuck all that, man.

And then, there's politics.

I. Fucking. Hate. Politics.

But this is something you gotta deal with, man.

In an ideal world, writers would write and ONLY write. Unfortunately, in an ideal world, Jessica Alba and Natalie Portman would be sucking my dick right now.

I have seen people whose only talent in life is to play politics. They suck at everything else. These people usually become my nemesis cause I can't play politics to save my life. I end up pissing everyone off, whether I mean to or not.

Nothing you can do about it. Except, well, maybe, take a machete, and start killing people. Yeah, that would help.

The most vital thing to remember is that there is a difference between what you have in your head and what it really is.

If I had a choice, I might have been an investment banker and ran away before 2005. And live my life in a non-extradition country. After causing all this economic bullshit.