Author D.A. Chan on What It Takes To Write Your Own Novel

February 19, 2018Krisha

Hi thirdworldbooknerds (lol should I call my readers that? I’m just hoping this sticks, tbh)!

Welcome to another installment of our writer interviews, where we feature local writers to help fuel your creativity and hopefuly spark some inspiration. 🙂

This next interview is really close to my heart because publishing your own work is a feat in itself. There are a lot of aspiring novelists out there who don’t have a clue when it comes to stuff like overcoming writer’s block, finishing a novel and getting it published.  I’m just so glad that there’s someone out there who can point us to the right direction. 🙂

Say hello to DA Chan, author of the sci-fi novel The Kindred Chronicles: Between Two Worlds.

This is quite a long but insightful read, so without further ado, let’s dive right into it:

Hello Sir David! Welcome to thirdworldbooknerd’s author interview series, where we interview local authors! Can introduce yourself to our lovely readers?

Thank you, also, for letting me be a part of your author interview series. I really appreciate it. I graduated Legal Management from DLSU and my first job was with Sykes as a call center agent. After Sykes, I got into several businesses. In fact, I’m still doing several businesses now. My wife and I supply ngohiong, lumpia, and dynamites to small eateries. We are also into the construction and selling of apartment houses. In addition to that, we also supply laundry machines to small business owners who want to run their own DIY laundry shops.

I’m also a Voice Actor and Voice Acting Director and our team has been featured in two video games up to date. I’m also a pastor of a young and small church (New Covenant Church Cebu) which I am so humbled to be a part of. Recently, I’ve also taken up Free Diving and find it to be very helpful and exhilarating. Soon enough, my wife and I are praying to start a small pre-school somewhere in the city.

And yes, I still do find time to write!

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Wow, you’re a real live author with a full-length novel. That’s really awesome. How did you manage to pull that off, given that you have other commitments? How long did the writing process take?

The writing process took about a year, give or take a few months.

Pulling it off is more complicated but I would say it boils down to two major things:

  • the decision to finish the novel
  • and an unforgiving commitment to time management.

The decision to finish the novel is key. Is this something you really want to do? Is it something you are willing to invest in? I would also say that deciding to write a novel is much like deciding to enter into a relationship with someone. You have to really decide that you want to do this.

IF that is your decision, then time management becomes a necessity. I told myself that I would sit from this time to that time to write or to waste time. And if I DID waste time, it would become “guilt fuel” for my next writing schedule.

You make time for what and who you love. Make time to write.

If you’re a serious novelist, you won’t give in to the temptation to give your writing “spare time.” No. You MAKE time. Time Management/ Discipline is what separates the novelist from the hobbyist. Not to sound too strict, but sometimes, we gotta kick ourselves and shake up our own lives to write.

Aside from word count (ha!), what’s the difference between writing short stories and writing a novel?

Soul age. At least that’s what I call it. It’s the answers to the questions on whether you have a lot of time or you’re too busy, whether you have had enough life experience to deepen your thought processes or you’ve been too sheltered, whether you have learned to accept and embrace the joys and tears of this life or still reject the hurts and shield yourself from reality.

People say that short stories can also be deep and require an old soul to write, while other novels can be as shallow as the last puddle you stepped in.

True.

But in most cases, short stories leave the reader to imagine the rest of the story. There is an unwritten prequel, prologue, and epilogue that the author never writes. It’s in his head, but it never got onto paper. So the author lets the reader imagine these parts of the story for himself or herself. So as deep as a short story can be, the author didn’t have the “soul age” to actually write it. There is only an assumption of depth, and this is an assumption made by the reader about the author. Until the author actually writes them, we readers are left with nothing more than our own imagination and our own soul age to fill in the gaps and the blanks of the story.

But with a novel, you’re writing more of the story that’s in your head. You’re leaving less and less for the readers to assume or imagine. In a sense, you’re pouring more and more of your own soul onto that ink and you’re carving more and more of your soul onto that piece of paper. You’re not leaving things to chance. You are creating and shaping more and more of your story world instead of leaving the readers to fill the blank pages for you.

Although it is true that length does not equal depth, it is quite rare, even impossible to give depth without length.

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We heard you self-published. Can you tell us a bit about the process?

Much of it had to do with research. When you self-publish, you must do everything. From finding the right sources to doing all the marketing, it’s all you. Fortunately, you also get full control over the content of your stories and the reach of your books.

Obviously, there is so much more to say than can fit into the pages of this interview. But let me give the essentials.

  1. Get yourself a professional editor
  2. Have yourself professionally reviewed
  3. Abuse social media.

So many writers think that self-editing will suffice. Trust me. Trust all those that have gone before us. Self-editing will never beat a professional editor who you pay to edit your work.

Developmental editors and copy editors will do wonders for your work. And since you’re already paying for editors, pay for professional reviews as well.

Don’t ask your parents to tell everyone how great your story is. Pay for your reviews, and have professionals do it. You may not like everything they say, but you’ll get honest reviews and with that comes reliability.

Lastly, abuse social media. Make accounts on all the platforms and copy paste links until you wear out the letters C and V on your computer. The world owes you nothing. If you want the world to know about your story world, Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V will be your life for the next half of the year!

Where do you get the inspiration to write?

Brace yourselves because the cliches are coming.

Inspirations to write come from everything I feel. Hopes, Fears, Dreams, Disappointments, Longings, Loves, Hates, Hurts, Joys, Pains, Conversations, Moments, Anger, Sorrow… you can turn anything into an inspiration.

Inspiration is not some kind of magic or special moment or some kind of mystical animal that you have found somewhere in the ether. Nope. Inspiration is an ability. It’s a skill. It’s your ability to turn something normal, something common that you get from life, and turn to turn that normal thing into something wonderful.

Watch a cat sleep and let your mind wonder and wander. You will end up creating short stories about the cat’s dream, or novels about the cat’s owner Julie who fell in love with the boy next door, Eric, because Eric’s cat wandered into Julie’s backyard last summer, and your story could revolve around the confessions that Julie tells her cat. And you can even tell the story from the perspective of Julie’s cat and Eric’s cat, who are also lovers, and how they have been secretly talking about their masters/ humans.

Again, inspiration is not a magic moment. It’s the ability to turn something normal into something wonderful.

What’s your go-to remedy for writer’s block?

This is where it gets tricky.

But there are two solutions to this. One is understanding how writer’s block works.

Writer’s block occurs when you sit down and open your laptop but did not decide beforehand whether you were going to write something new, or edit something old. Left brain or right brain? Creation is chaotic. Polishing or editing is systematic.

Remember time management? Don’t just get your planner and write “Friday, 4pm, work on novel.” Nope. That’s not enough. You should be more specific. Is it going to be “write chapter 9?” or “edit chapter 8?” If you decide to write something new, go for it. If you decide to edit something old, then polish it until it shines. But do NOT sit there and get stuck whether you’re going to create or polish. THAT is the source of writer’s block because your left and right brain will get confused. The second solution is being honest with yourself and admitting that “writer’s block” is MOST of the time just another way of saying “I am being lazy and unprofessional.”

When people say they lack inspiration, what they are REALLY saying is that they are not in the mood. And we HAVE talked about inspiration. So how do you get fired up? Well, the second solution is to read, listen, and watch your genre. You’re working on urban fantasy? Watch your favorite urban fantasy movie. Read that urban fantasy novel you love so much. Listen to soundtracks that capture the theme of your story.

What’s the most important thing to keep in mind when writing?

Write for yourself. Don’t write for others. Write for your own pleasure. You won’t please the whole world. But there will always be just enough weirdos in the world who will love your story as much as you do. So write for yourself. Write to make yourself feel happy. Of course, there are other basic rules such “don’t preach to your readers” and “tell a story instead of pushing an agenda” and etc… but really, in the end, you write because YOU NEED TO WRITE, and not because others need to read.

Lastly, any book/music/movie recommendations for our dear readers? Any parting words?

LORD OF THE RINGS. Seriously, LOTR. And while you’re at it, SHAKESPEARE. When you’re done with those, get a copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

As for movies, there are a few that I would recommend, even if a lot of people hate them. These three movies actually capture the essence of what I was trying to say regarding inspiration: The Lady in the Water by Shyamalan, Death Note (the Japanese anime and NOT the western adaptation on Netflix), and Hook starring Robin Williams.

As for parting words, here are two practical pieces of advice: First, live in this world until this world falls in love with yours. In other words, get a job that pays well so that you can afford to write. Second, when it comes to your first draft, get it written before getting it right. Meaning, don’t go nuts polishing every chapter. It would be better to finish your first draft as fast as you can. Just accept that it will be embarrassing because it is the FIRST draft after all. After that, polish polish polish. So get it written before getting it right.

 

We hope you guys picked up a lot of things from this interview. Thanks sir David! See you guys on the next installment! 🙂

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