Saturday, May 31, 2008

Getting into the Game

You can't win if you don't get into the game. Of course you could spend your life watching others play the game from the sidelines, where it's nice and safe. But you'll never win. If you get into the game, you have a chance. More importantly you're competing; you're putting yourself out there and you're probably having some fun too. Yeah, you could look like a fool now and then, get some personal rejection, but at least you're in the game!

For writers there are many games that you can get into, whether it's a short story or a novel contest. Or you could play the getting an agent game or having your work published game. Of course you can always go back to the sidelines and whine complain about how you can't compete with the big boys (and big girls). But did you even try? Maybe you just gave up to soon.

Personally I love to hear those stories of how famous, best-selling novels were turned down by everyone it seemed, yet the author persevered by staying in the game and ultimately won. Sadly some couldn't handle the rejection and drank themselves into oblivion or even committed suicide. Had they stayed in there a little longer, they may have even won the Pulitzer Prize! Sound unlikely? That's exactly what happend to A Confederacy of Dunces, a novel written by John Kennedy Toole, and published in 1980, 11 years after the author's suicide. His mother eventually sold the book. (

For over twenty years I've beem drifting in and out of the game. It's easy to get discouraged, to lose confidence, to give up. I always kept writing, though, putting in my 15 hours a week, but I was still on the sidelines, putting in token efforts here and there to sell my work. Then an opportunity came to re-publish Lovers and Strangers, which I retitled Lovers and Strangers Revisited back in 2005. And now it's being published again in 2008.

This got me thinking, what else do I have that could get me back in the game beyond Malaysia? I have all these novels and screenplays. They will never sell if no one sees them. I knew they needed rewritten, but I wasn't rewriting them. Then the realization struck me, if I want to be a novelist, then I need to spend the bulk of my writing times writing novels. If I want to make some serious money as a screenplay writer, then I need to make time to rewrite my screenplays.

Then I need to start marketing my work to agents, entering them into contests, and looking at future ideas. Ideas from my past, too. Maybe the timing was not right before and now it is. So now I'm getting back into the game with a vengenace. I plan to make the year 2008 the year I turned it all around by getting serious about writing. The first five months have been extremely productive. Already I've resuscitated one novel and two screeplays and several short stories from the dead. They're out there now looking for a home.

If I can't take my writing, my craft seriously, why should anyone else bother? What kind of legacy do I want to leave behind, a file cabinet full of unpublished novels, unproduced screeplays? Or a few (preferrably twenty) books and several films? How about your own legacy? Do you want to remain on the sidelines or get into the game? What are you waiting for!

Here are links to some of my author-to-author interviews of first novelists:

Ivy Ngeow author of Cry of the Flying Rhino, winner of the 2016 Proverse Prize.

Golda Mowe author of Iban Dream and Iban Journey.

Preeta Samarasan author of Evening is the Whole Day

Chuah Guat Eng,  author of Echoes of Silence and Days of Change. 


Beheaded on Road to Nationhood: Sarawak Reclaimed—Part I