When did you realise that you would become a writer for life?
A common question. For some, it's extra pocket money. For others, it's just part of their job. For people like me, it's a way of life and a calling. Most people know me as that one webnovelist that provides free informative knowledge to new aspiring webnovelists. However, I did not first start as a webnovelist.
This is my story.
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The first sign that I would be a writer someday started around the age of three. My parents did not teach me how to write. I taught myself how to do it. From there, it was just something that I did without much thought. I wrote my first hundred-word composition at five. All my essays in school were way above the required word count, and by the age of fifteen, my world exploded.
There are several reasons why I didn't realise I wanted to become a writer until I was the age of sixteen. Many things happened while I was growing up. It's safe to identify as a child genius who wasn't given the right resources in a poor environment for recognising and nurturing talent. I had a rough childhood, and you can imagine the trauma it created in me that would never heal. Many parts of the damaged me are reflected constantly in my writing, such as my inability to grow up and constantly having the world view of a five-year-old. But that's not all.
#1: Secret Language Journal
Communication. This is the one thing I constantly struggle with in life, even as an adult. I learned how to communicate effectively, efficiently and more empathetically over the years but it continues to be my biggest struggle as not many people are able to understand the way I see things and think (cue broken child genius).
It all started as part of my elementary school's efforts to help me communicate better with my peers at my mother's request. I was made to keep a journal with my teachers and parents. I had counsellors, therapists, and so many professionals trying to understand me and 'fix the problem', but it did nothing to help my gap with reality. I was still misunderstood, often criticised and told that I was wrong for being different. Attention-seeking, arrogant, selfish, weird, crazy and difficult were some things people used to describe me.
Obviously, I would start to hate journaling if my innermost thoughts were used against me. However, I realised that, for the first time, something was different. They were responding to me, although in a hurtful manner.
Hence, I created my very first coded language to write my journals at the age of eight. From there on, I only shared the code with my brother, and we would use that strange language to send each other messages so that our parents and teachers wouldn't understand. It was also when I started rebelling. It's also the inspiration for Love Journal and what the kids in there did.
#2: Fan Fiction
At thirteen, I entered middle school and met my second best friend in life. Her name is Annabel and it was thanks to her that I was introduced to anima, manga and, of course, yaoi. Through her introduction, I also started reading and writing fan fiction. That was the beginning of the madness that paved my path as an author for the future.
I remember writing and sharing my work with her as well as several other friends while publishing it on the website she normally reads from. Through that, the rise of Facebook and new anime meant I was introduced to many new crazy communities. I really love the series Katekyo Hitman Reborn and was a major fan fiction writer in those days for that anime. For some reason, my obsession with that series (that was actually introduced by Kiki Scrybbles who was a childhood friend of Annabel) led me to become one of the KHR fan page's admins. The page blew up and grew to over 10,000 fans, so whenever we did fan events, I would be in charge of writing fan fiction requests.
I remember on the night of a Toastmasters Christmas Camp, while everyone else partied, I wrote 16 one-shot fan fiction for the event. I thought it was the craziest thing I'd ever done until I grew used to learning how I could actually write up to 10,000 words in a day. Yet, this experience of writing fan fiction led to a different kind of confidence from journaling. I started keeping my journals on the internet under Blogspot. It was a place my friends, fans and readers could follow for any irl updates as it was more personal than on Facebook. The fan fiction phase lasted for a few years before I went into a hiatus at the age of about nineteen. I'll talk about why later on. However, I'm still back writing them sporadically on Wattpad and Webnovel. You can subscribe there or simply join my discord server for updates.
#3: Writing Competition
The fan fiction fever spread everywhere, and the teacher in charge of the English department caught wind of it when I applied for a writing competition from a magazine and won. I only applied it with a poem for the entry because I thought it would be fun and winning some branded pen would feel fancy. I entered with my pen name simply because I didn't think I would win (it was international), but I did. The news reached the ears of the higher-ups in the school, and even the principal started making exceptions for me to provide me with more opportunities to participate in competitions for the school.
Hence, at fifteen, I started becoming known as "that girl who writes very well" in the school, raking in competitions from local to international. The most expensive prize I won had to be an Apple iPod (second generation) with a really nice pair of headphones. It was the envy of my classmates, but considering how I didn't have a phone of my own, they weren't too jealous. If anything, I received so many congratulations, and more people started asking me for English composition tips.
This competition phase lasted only until middle school ended because, after middle school's big exam, life happened. My father refused to support me in writing, and I was forced to study accounting. Things only became worse from that point in my life.
#4: Mentoring and Self Study
In the competition days, remember I mentioned how the principal gave me special exemptions? Some of those exemptions included skipping classes that I scored A+ for. Trust me. There were a few. I mostly 'self-studied' in the library. Most times, I'll be on the computer or reading a new book. The librarians knew me there as I was their regular.
However, on the rare occasion, I would be escorted to events by a school teacher during those periods. One of them was a writing workshop organised by the library for youth writers. My English teacher (who is the English department head) thought it would be great for me to get exposure and meet people with similar interests. The writer giving the talk back then was Weena Poon. She became my writing mentor for a while until we stopped exchanging emails.
Did I think having a writing mentor was helpful? Not particularly. Weena didn't have a structured curriculum of any sort. It was more of a "ask and I shall answer" type of thing than a teacher-and student-relationship. Then again, I understand why she doesn't have a lot of time to take care of people like me. She is also working as a lawyer in the UK, which explains her schedule.
Hence, I decided to stop being a burden and did most of the research myself. My mother helped me look for other alternatives and paid for an online diploma in writing, where they sent us two boxes of lesson materials that I read but did not turn in the assignments. I didn't get that diploma, and my mother was alright with it. I mean, how was I meant to write a script for a radio show and get a DJ to read it as part of my assignment? I had no contacts and wasn't even twenty years old. I did write to local newspapers, magazines and online media in that period, studying everything from politics to fashion. Hence, it turned out to be a greater learning experience than under Weena's wing.
#5: Self Publishing
Supporting me secretly from the shadows behind my father's back, my mother asked if I was interested in self-publishing after she'd seen me getting rejected by publishers over and over again with reasons such as "your genre is too unique for us" and "we couldn't find an editor suitable to work with your kind of work".
Honestly, I didn't see self-publishing as a lower standard than a traditionally published book. If a book was printed, it was a book. However, I had no idea how to go about doing it, so my mother pulled all her connections to find out how others did it. We arrived at Amazon KDP for that, and I studied the rest by myself how to create a cover, format the pages, edit a manuscript and choose the right fonts.
My lack of confidence as a first-time writer to self-publish made me pay a lot more money than the book sold for my very first novel. I had my friend from middle school who was studying digital media help me illustrate the cover, paid two different editors to find out what was wrong with my manuscript, only to have the first one take my money and diss the book so badly that was akin to telling me to kill myself for writing such a horrible work, learning about different book publishing sites, store distribution, royalty rights and margins etc.
It was a huge learning curve, but I finally published my first book at about 21. I'd graduated with a degree and was working my first full-time corporate job when that happened, but there wasn't anyone to celebrate that with me. The book ended up not selling at all.
#6: The Darkest Moment, My Suicide Novel
The storm did not happen overnight. For many years, my parents did not have a good relationship. At 19, they finally escalated into an explosive fight to divorce each other. It affected everyone, including myself, who had never thought my parents would separate.
While struggling to keep the family together, even though it was doomed to fall apart, I spiralled into depression. I'd been physically, mentally, emotionally and even sexually abused as a child. My primary caregivers were my biggest source of abuse, but I also knew that I was different. My parents did not have the best education or upbringing. They also led very tough lives to survive as children, so they did what they thought was best for me, not knowing the damage their actions would result in. As a logical person, I understood that I will only ever have one father, mother and brother in this life, even if they betray me repeatedly. The stubborn part of me that never grew up refused to let go, but eventually, it pushed me to the point of not wanting to live anymore. I came to the conclusion that if I couldn't save anyone or do anything, I would rather die. It was too painful living like this.
However, a random song on Youtube by Mafumafu while I was at work helped me change my mind. Listening to him sing was like finding someone who has gone through the same pain you did and telling you that you can walk out of it because they managed to do so. For the first time in my very dark life, I found someone who could understand the pain I was feeling, not because they were only saying it but because they went through the same thing.
I planned my suicide. I was meant to die back then. There were only twelve more days till I ended my life. I had everything ready when I decided to turn back. It wasn't that I decided to give up on suicide. Initially, I was only postponing it.
I couldn't believe that I was going to be a writer who only had one unpublished book to her name. If I was going to be a writer, I wanted to be a writer until the moment I died. Suicide letters were too unwriterly. I had to write a suicide novel!
In my quest to write that suicide novel that took me two years, I did a lot of soul-searching. I grew to learn more about myself and my family, and started seeing the world around me with a different set of eyes. I developed the ultimate skill known as the Mangekyo Writergan.
What does the Mangekyo Writergan do? It makes me see underneath the underneath. I did my best to realise that most people are common plebians whose minds are often predictable. I also came to realise that the world is a product of chain reactions. I might not be able to change the past (my parents' divorce) but I certainly can change the relationship I have with them by moving forward. At the same time, realising this helped me to create more interesting characters in my future works.
#7: My Return with Webnovel
I took a long writing hiatus before I learned about Webnovel in 2018. I was considering returning to Amazon KDP when Webnovel came sliding into my DM from Wattpad. I did a lot of research before joining them as a 2nd generation writer and stuck with them while they grew. It was a very different field, a much more toxic one back in those days, that made me realise I still had room to grow as a person.
I did two exclusive works (Ball of Nothing & Monarch of Solitude) with Webnovel with major disappointment because my ideal creative direction did not match with their corporate culture. Hence, I decided to take what I learned and turn it into free content for others who wish to try e-fictions and move out to non-exclusive contracts. However, I did not regret my few years with Webnovel as it taught me where my bottom line was and gave me a great community of readers. I also met many fantastic author friends along the way and will continue to give back as much as I can to new webnovelists as there isn't anyone else doing what I do for the community. Until someone else decides to take over, my work here isn't done.
#8: The Future
After finding my direction for the kind of writer I want to be, I hope to bring crazier content into this world full of capitalism. Let's bring back creation that spreads laughter, soothes pain and inspires understanding in a community. All hail the rebel and tiny army!
Although I don't know where writing will continue to take me in the future, I know that it will be the friend who will talk to the end with me. We don't know the ending to my story, but that's the fun of creating any book. It's all about the journey, and I'm grateful that you're part of it as well.