Every November, over a hundred thousand writers across the world participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month–although it’s very much an international affair now) and attempt to finish a novel in the span of one month. Many Filipino writers participate in NaNoWriMo as well, calling themselves PinoyWriMos, and this year, several participants have decided to self publish their novels in ebook form at this year’s Summer’s Komikon on April 17, 2010 at the UP Bahay ng Alumni, with the help of Talecraft. I spoke to four of the five young authors via email about their stories, and their decision to publish these stories on their own.
Tell me a little bit about yourselves, so our readers will know the context from which you approach your writing.
EK: Call me EK, ee-kay. My real name can be easily found–I have published and may still publish with it–but since I am using a professional license now, I prefer to use the online handle for fiction-related matters. My writing background is hard-knocks, coming from school newspapers, stage presentations, fan websites, fanfiction, and some original fiction.
Kuyerjudd: I started writing when I was eight years old, because the worlds I made (or the worlds that made me) were the very things that kept me going. In that sense you could say I’m a hippy writer. I keep my head in the clouds, and not a lot of people who write Western fiction get published in the Philippines, so I constantly end up querying agents from Australia and the US—with no luck as of yet. That being said, I keep my heart where it is … where it belongs: in the Philippines. Other than that, I’m sixteen, live with my parents, and I dream big. More? I write comedy, I don’t use the QWERTY, and I’ll soon rule the world. With brownies. Lots and lots of brownies.
Raven: Actually, what led me to write Crimson Skies were the questions that I used to ask older people as a child (even a priest and a nun): ”Why do we have to die? When is the end of the world? Where is God? How sure are you it‘s not the devil talking to you?” The characters (in the story) ask these same questions themselves.
Pauline: I’m a Psychology major with too much imagination, not to mention an inborn fascination with the occult and the paranormal, yet one lacking the perseverance to slave through blocks of texts that end with a question mark. Much of what I write are products of my imagination, since I like creating facts from theories and theories from facts.
Most of these stories started as your respective NaNoWriMo projects. How many NaNos have you participated in? Do you think the challenge is helpful to new writers (in whole or in part)?
EK: This is my second year as a Nanowrimo participant, and this is my first complete story using this method. My opinion is that Nanowrimo is helpful to new writers, giving them a solid goal and solid objectives. The website makes a community of similar-minded individuals come together, which makes you feel less lonely as a writer.
Kuyerjudd: This was my first time doing NaNo, but not my first to write a novel. I guess I could say, yes, NaNo is helpful when you’re a budding writer. It helps you develop your voice, discover who you are as a writer, and, most importantly, teaches you how to deal with a deadline. And that way, the writing becomes less cold, as you go by your gut and an “anything goes” attitude. You become in tune with the eight-year old aspiring novelist that you were…
Raven: This was my first time to join the Nanowrimo and this is the first novel unleashed from my head. One of the challenges faced by a newbie is realizing that writing a novel isn’t something you can just play around with. It’s a rollercoaster ride because there are so many things you can do, but you have such a short span of time to do them, thus adding pressure. Since this was my first novel, figuring out of how to do things and put them together, while at the same time trying not to copy another author’s style even by accident, was crucial. There are many things to learn still, and just because you‘re able to finish a novel doesn’t mean it’s done.
Pauline: I’ve participated in NaNo since 2007–though my first year barely counts since I joined on the second to the last day. The challenge of NaNo was quite helpful, especially when I was just a greenhorn, since it introduced me to the real concept of the Deadline. Perseverance and stubbornness are also traits that I picked up through the experience, and I always get to hone my knack of writing-without-an-outline each year thanks to NaNo.
What made you decide to take your stories straight to the market, without the intermediary of a third party publisher?
EK: Speaking at least for myself, there is no local market that I could see yet for my kind of writing, which is in between children’s books and the adult fiction. This is not to say there are no readers; the local success of international YA titles show that there is a readership. Rather, there are no publishers yet seriously considering the kind of writing that some of us make.
Kuyerjudd: Hey, any opportunity to showcase your work is an opportunity worth taking. I find publishing in the traditional sense difficult–and yet I still query agents and publishers… Sometimes you have to show the world you want it before it gives in to your wishes. Plus, this is a great opportunity for a fledgling writer like myself to show the world what I’m made of.
Raven: I consider this a “suicide mission.” Sure anyone can write a story; but not everyone has the guts to put it up for people to read. Some writers do, but staying on the front lines is a gut wrencher, especially without a third-party publisher to guide you. Going straight to the market is the ultimate test of how far one can personally go for this.
Pauline: I prefer seeing things to the end. I see all of my creations as my babies, so taking them straight to the market is like watching them march down the aisle during graduation. I mean, what kind of parent would rather ask someone else watch his kid graduate?
Have you encountered any of the stigma that allegedly colors perception of self-published books?
EK: This experience of preparing for Komikon taught me that paid editors and the traditional system [of publishing] are around for very good reasons. They provide objective eyes for a story, and harness the business knowledge to market it. But if Komikon is anything to go by, a lot of independent works deserve a chance to be noticed, a chance they will not get via the traditional system.
Kuyerjudd: I’ve often thought about self-publishing and what its pros and cons were, but right now”it sort of branches out as to what form you distribute your work in—you could do e-books or PoD. PoD is okay, but I’d rather go with e-books, as it’s less costly for three parties—the author, the reader, and nature.
Raven: When people hear the term “self published book”, some will be amazed that we have the guts to do it, while others will think that no self righteous publisher would take the stories so we’re doing it ourselves. Having a self published book is a challenge for us: we call the shots, true, but how long can we hold on to that?
Pauline: From a writer’s perspective, I do. Thoughts like: ‘Will people even pick this book?’ and ‘Am I even making any sense?’ plague me–I don’t know if those count as real stigmas, but I definitely feel anxious.
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