Friday, April 15, 2011

Learning to Write Right

“Want to attend a creative writing course?” Meg asked. I perked up immediately. We had no idea who was conducting this course but, yes, I want to go I told her.

Years ago, when I mentioned about learning writing through a correspondence course, a newspaper editor told me not to waste money on writing courses.

“Read books,” he advised. “Read lots of book.” But, oh, wouldn't it be fun just to be in a room with other wannabe writers and listening to the wise words of (maybe) a published writer!

After about two months of waiting, Meg and I finally met the ‘course organiser’. Jude Day had emailed us the details about the workshop and was apparently the person in-charge of registration and collecting our RM100 fees.

“Hi! I’m Jude,” she said, her eyes twinkling. She seemed really glad to see us! My own eyes must have registered surprise. I hadn't expected a female Jude!

There were about 25 participants. One guy flew in all the way from Miri! The youngest attendee was a very young girl and the oldest must have been around my age. One lady looked so familiar but I couldn’t place her until a few days after the workshop. (She was the ‘laughing lady’ who came to teach our group how to clap-clap-hahaha!)

Finally, we got to see who’d be conducting the workshop. Robert Raymer  looked just like I saw him on—was it Cuppa Kopi 

“I talk fast and I write sloppy,” he said. Well, who am I to disagree? He did talk fast but I won’t complain about the sloppy writing because mine is no better.

I’ve read a lot about writing: what to write; how to write; where to start; common pitfalls and such but I still learnt something new at this workshop! I appreciate the story-starter tips because I’m always stuck at the beginning. What could you write if you’re stuck even before you’ve typed the first sentence?

“Write lists!” Robert said. “Make a list of characters, of settings, of experiences.”

I’ve never tried listing actual people—people I know or strangers I’ve seen—as possible characters in my stories. I’ve never actually listed down the ‘highlights’ and ‘difficult’ periods of my life to use as possible experiences for my fictional characters. Nor have I made just a list of settings. Now I know that I can make a long list each of Characters, Settings, Experiences like Robert had pointed out.

Then I can add my own little twist: number each item on all the lists, pick a random number from each list and write a short story based on the words I’ve picked. It’s just to strengthen my writing muscle and to achieve my target of writing 250 words a day. What could be simpler? Now I’ll probably need to increase my daily target to 500 words!

I bought a copy of Robert’s Lovers and Strangers Revisited, a book I’ve had on my reading list since last year. I had to join the queue to have my copy signed. Oh, a reminder to myself: when you ask an author to sign your copy, say your name clearly and shut up while he’s writing so your name will not be changed to DINA.

Pictures courtesy of Jude Day


  1. Hi,I was the guy who came all the way from Miri to attend the writing workshop.

    I did not realize that you were in the workshop!I had ever browsed through your book and was impressed by your beautiful way of writing.My late grandmother was a Dusun.

    Before the workshop started I asked some ladies if you were present in the workshop. They said no and I assumed that you were not there.

  2. haih...missed this one...looks fun!

  3. Tina,
    Thanks for the blog, and sorry about the name. I heard Dina, repeated it and wrote down Dina on my name list (to make sure it's correct, to avoid mistakes like this) before I wrote it into the book, and never once did you correct me! Later, when I was trying to match up my name list with the roster I was stumped. Now which one is Dina? And realized my (our) mistake!

    I'll link this back to my blog along with two others who had attended.

    Again, you were the first to mention seeing me on Kuppa Kopi. That reminds me, I've yet to get around to posting the actual interview. Here's a post about the shooting, a great experience!

    Good luck with your writing. You should've brought along a copy of your book and we could've exchanged them, and then there would have been no way that I would've gotten your name wrong!

  4. 2nd book coming soon I foresee :D. Write something about a suluk sea farer named Laksamana, oh wait, let's make him a prince :P. He got washed ashore in Kuala Penyu. Fell in love with a Dusun girl but before he could take her hand in marriage, he must fight off a lot of savage head hunters and menacing robot Orang Utans :P

  5. Wow! What a beautiful site! And really good to have another published author at our workshop. Hmmm, from such humble beginnings, who knows what can happen? I hope you'll come to our next workshop on 13 August where you'll be able to do even more writing - both non-fiction and fiction! It's writer-to-writer stuff! (By the way, I'm always happy to meet people.)

  6. Hi all! Thanks for dropping in.

    @sintaicharles from Miri: Sorry we didn't get to say hello at the workshop. We'll meet again soon!

    @Angel: Maybe next time you want to join us?

    @Robert: I discovered the mistake when I got home. No problem though. I'm sure there'll be other days, other books!

    @Justin: Yes, Justin... wait for the next book. Good idea about the Laksamana/prince!

    @AST: Jude?? I enjoyed the workshop and won't miss the next one!

  7. Just read your latest posting. Your RM100 was worth it from the sound of your posting and I am sure you have made many new friends too.

  8. Wow. I've always wanted to attend a writing course but never had the chance to. From what you've shared here, it sounds really useful :)

  9. Yes, Lizee, it was great to learn helpful tips... and to be among birds of the same feature-- wannabe writers!