Writing Tips

[Nanowrimo 2019] Week 2

Remember how I said last week that the new Nanowrimo website is great for catching up? Yup, as you can see from the gif above, I’ve almost hit the daily word count goal so far over the last 10 days or so.

That isn’t to say that the writing process itself has been great. Rather, there’s been quite a fair amount of slog. I estimate that I can possibly use perhaps only 25% of what I’ve written so far. Writing time has been extremely finicky – there’s been a lot of experimenting with what I can or cannot do thanks to the surgery, and there was also that day when just hitting the bare minimum was harsh.

After reaching a point in which writing about the story my character was reading was more interesting than the actual writing itself, I decided to just restart the entire thing. And this turned out to be much more interesting and easier to write. Things I learnt:

  1. My character has a very specific personality
    I know the kind of things I want my MC to go through, and I already have a glimpse of the people she keeps around her. The surprising part of it is that she has just told me her father is still alive, and we are still debating on whether he’s really the nice guy she remembered or if the time spent away from family has dehumanised him. There’s a lot to explore, and this isn’t even covering the reason why she ran away in the first place.
  2. The place where we began has a personality
    Turns out old buildings that have been bewitched and bespelled have a sort of sentient personality. Writing the openings and the way she interacted with the building was fun, and I look forward to her going back there again, though because I am a consequential style of writer, this may take some time.
  3. Establishing things based on previous knowledge
    Despite the fact that I kinda hated the way the previous story went about, I’m actually very happy with the trivia and nuggets we dropped earlier. As they say, you can’t revise a blank page, and even though I will be throwing away a lot of words, the knowledge I gained writing those is very useful.
  4. What is routine?
    I thought I had already settled on a routine but that turned out to be false. Instead I try to write whenever I can, using sprints to get started. Yesterday’s long word count was due to me sitting down and just writing out a scene that played out in slow motion before my afternoon nap – I didn’t expect to write that quickly to the point that after I’d hit word count, it was only 3pm in the afternoon. I had fully intended on leaving it as is, but it turned out I had a bit of fuel left after dinner, so I kicked out another 1k words to almost make that day’s actual wordcount.
  5. Music makes a whole lot of difference
    At the office I use to listen to those “chill lofi beats” as they’re great for just zoning out and relaxing. However when it comes to creative writing I’ve since learnt that they’re good for getting me relaxed, but not that great when it comes to writing. So far I’ve been jumping between Assassin’s Creed’s and since they announced, the entire Aquarion OST. There’s something really different about writing to an anime soundtrack instead of a generic cafe style.

And then I took a much needed break yesterday while writing this and broke my streak whoops. Turned out to be a good thing – while I’m still not happy with parts of today’s writing, I’m pretty happy with where the novel is going.


[Nanowrimo 2019] Week 1 progress check

It’s 8 November where I am now, and that means Nanowrimo Week 1 is officially over. I make it a point to try to participate yearly, if for nothing else than it gives me an excuse to write silly things, and this year’s no different.

The circumstances are a little different for me this year though. For one, I’m recovering from myomectomy, a fibroid removal surgery. For another, I am writing this not from my home/work place, but from my mother-in-law’s, so the atmosphere is noticeably different. I also started pretty late this year – usually I try to get some words in on November 1 itself, but I haven’t been able to muster the energy and strength to actually start writing until the 4th.

Which actually turned out to be a good thing. Some things I’ve learnt this week:

  1. Learning to let go
    Despite being a pantser, I tend to have a very specific idea of how words should appear on a page. At an unconscious level, this was me judging myself. I like to be able to turn in clean first drafts, with the idea being that my writing would only need tweaks or that the idea has already been made apparent, with just minimal editing required. There was also the idea that what I wrote is a reflection of who I am as a human being (I know, please laugh with me).

    This year’s Nano has taught me otherwise. In its 4,500+ words I’ve written so far, I’ve come to acknowledge my silly biases and honesty to myself. What is coherence? What is linear thought? While I am still a in-sequence writer, I’ve learnt to not question the time skips and jumps and the stereotypical-ness of my writing.

    Plus I didn’t expect the idea of whiteness to appear so strongly, so that was a nice surprise.

  2. A little bit at a time
    Thanks to the surgery, it isn’t recommended that I sit for too long periods of time unsupported. The chair where I write has no back, and my stitches do hurt from time to time, so I make it a point to stop and take a break. I also seem to have superficial thrombophlebitis, so the back of my right hand is swollen and hurts when I flex my hands a bit too much.

    These enforced breaks, combined with regular eating times, means that when I am at the laptop writing, it is focused writing.

    A sprint helps me get started or end the day’s writing session, while the rest of the time is spent percolating over what comes next in the story. It’s already moving at a clip I didn’t expect.

  3. The new Nanowrimo website is extremely great at catching up
    It actually shows the word count you need to achieve that day in order to hit 50,000 words by the end of the month, so I no longer need to do the rough maths myself – I can just write according to the amount of words required. Plus I admit, it’s nice to see the chart climb.

  4. Word counts don’t matter
    Ironically, while I am writing to a word count, this year’s more relaxed goals for myself means it’s a nice signpost, but it’s not a must to hit 50,000 words for me. I will admit I’d like to achieve it, but being behind this year and feeling like I missed the boat makes me feel more free compared to before and allows me to do things with my story like inserting descriptions where I want to, and not because I thought it would plump the word count.

  5. Fingernails
    I need to cut them and soon, they’re way too long for typing lol.

How’s your writing journey going?


Hello Productivity Alchemy people!

Hello! If you’re here from Productivity Alchemy, welcome!

I don’t know what else to say except that in the space between talking with Kevin and the episode going live, there’s a few things I feel I need to update (hahaha).

I have stepped into the world of fountain pen inks. Right now my primaries are both Japanese inks – specifically the Kyo-Iro series. I am in love with the Flaming Red of Fushimi and the Soft Snow of Ohara. Will probably do a more in-depth review of the inks when I am writing more.

I have also added the Pilot Juice Up pens to my arsenal, though these are mainly the Metallics and the Pastel range, both of which show up wonderfully on black paper. These are some of the things I picked up at a recent Bookfair (book fairs tend to be a mix of stationery and other things being sold, it’s wild).

Haul at Popular Book Fair

Thanks for dropping by!

Writing Tips

Uploading gifs to Facebook natively

Native gif uploading for Facebook

Uploading gifs to Facebook natively has finally arrived for business pages! No third party linking required. All you need is to create your usual organic posts using the normal Facebook page status updates (tested only on desktop). Here’s how:

  1. Click and drag your gif as you would an image or regular video into your regular post update box. Alternately, click on the Camera/Photo upload icon and select your gif file.
  2. Add some text to accompany your gif. Treat it like a regular update.
  3. Click on Publish or if you’re a bit nervous, “Save as Draft.”
  4. Facebook will show you that your video is being processed. Refresh the page or check in your drafts, depending on where you save.
  5. Watch your GIF come to life natively.

A few things to note:

  • There is no preview for your gif before you press “Publish” or “Save as draft”. You’ll see just the film icon that indicates a video file is there.
  • If you upload it via the “Select File from PC” option instead of drag and drop, Facebook treats it like a video. You can actually title your gif and give it a description to make it searchable
  • Yes, this means Facebook now supports uploading gif natively and you will no longer need to upload it to a third party site like Giphy anymore.

Yes, this is very unintuitive, I know.

Writing Tips

[Quick tip] Changing fonts on Outlook 365 and Web

Updated as of 1 March 2018:

To change your fonts, signature and other settings in Outlook 365/Outlook.com email, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Gear icon and type Options into the search box.
    Start from search

  2. Select Message Options from the results.

  3. In Office 365, you’ll find your messaging options on the left. Click on Layout. Change fonts from the Email signature and Message format sections.
    how to select

  4. In regular Outlook.com (aka if you are not under a company account), Email Signatures are under the Personalization tab and the Compose tab.

Yes, it’s ridiculous that there’s no real way to access the settings except by going through Search. The even more ridiculous part is that these settings were so hidden in the first place. For goodness sake, Microsoft, I should not need to write a post just so I can remember how to change my signature!

Writing Tips

Alternatives to 750words

750words is a website dedicated to morning pages. These pages were first mentioned in Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way, as a simple writing exercise. You basically freewrite for 3 pages (I think it’s A4 or US letter) in the morning, which comes up to 750 words, more or less. In true Internet fashion, 750words.com is a minimal writing site that encourages and gamifies morning pages, helping you get started.

Now, first thing to note, I like 750words. I do agree that morning pages are better than meditation in a few ways. It acts as a confessional of sorts, focusing on stream of consciousness. Some people get emotional experiences. Some become more creative, and so forth. Me I find it useful when I wake early enough to type them, but this is not always going to be the case.

750words has a hidden subscription price which, while cheap, is not something I want to pay for right now. Especially not when there are plenty of alternatives, such as:

alt text

WriteaDay (Android only)

WriteADay is a wonderful and colourful tool to keep you writing.

It’s colour-coded by day, so the more you write, the more gradients you get. If all you need is just a quick app that motivates you to jot down thoughts throughout the day and you’d like to gamify yourself, this is an excellent tool. When you’ve written a few entries, you get a lovely streak of colour.

Bonus? You get free backup to Google Drive AND a Night or Day mode – the latter is excellent if you don’t like the blinding white background. You can also change the font to something a little more readable (2 options). Did I mention that these are all in the free mode?

Paying for the app gets you extra font options, password protection (PIN+Fingerprint) and one more viewing mode (Dusk). There’s also a pretty damn good range of affordable subscriptions: monthly is the cheapest at USD2 (cheaper than a cup of coffee!), yearly will cost you USD10 (one month discount) but I think the Lifetime is the best bang for buck at just a measly USD25.

alt text

Journey (Cross-platform)

Journey is a more feature-packed journal writing software compared to most others on the market.

In some cases you can think of Journey as the replacement to when Google Docs took out the option to publish HTML and other networks. It tags your entries by location, date and time. A snapshot of the weather is also attached.

There’s also the option to add photos (videos are a premium/cloud feature), your own tags and write from all devices. PC, Mac, phone… these are all enabled by default. Prices start at Rm7.99 per device but the Cloud price unlocks everything across all devices at Rm18.99 (currently on sale with a 20% discount).

Google Docs

Free, online, and easy to use. Just make sure you close all other tabs to prevent distractions.


Despite the fact that this software is more or less orphaned, I still love Baara’s Q10. I would not have written as much nor focus if it were not for this minimalist app.

You can still install it from the website, and here are instructions in case Windows10 or Win7 gives you issues. And yes, I’ve tried a few others but I love Q10 the most.

Putting it here because if you are the kind that likes an offline app this is most likely to fit your needs. Set the timer, and just write.

So what will you pick?

So many writing tools, so little focus to write, no?


[Review] Clockwork Boys by T. Kingfisher

Author: T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon)
Price: USD 4.99 e-book, USD 24.95 hardcover
ISBN10: 1614504067
ISBN13: 9781614504061

TL;DR: A quick escape from the mundanity of life with a dose of laughter and fantasy made unusual.

Disclaimer: I may get a small commission from the Book Depository links.

A ninja accountant, a smoking assassin, a paladin with a dead demon, and a misogynistic, impressionable genius teen scholar set out on a suicide mission. They stand a higher likelihood of killing each other before the mission gets them, and that’s before they leave the city.

Clockwork Boys is a delightful read. It is also my first Ursula Vernon (writing as T. Kingfisher) story, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. According to most reviews, this book is a little darker than her regular stuff, but to me after reading so many doomsday books and articles in 2017, her words are a refreshing breath in 2018.

The characters are really what make Clockwork Boys come alive. Slate, the main character is a resigned 30-year old forger who, according to her own description, is nondescript. She has an inconvenient magical gift tied to her nose, and a gift for staying alive. Also I have not seen anyone do nose-related magic well and Ursula nails it here.

Caliban is great as the paladin with a hole in his soul and a demon on his mind. He’s a very pretty paladin (as is noted by other readers) and I like that in addition to his brooding, he can be rather dumb yet smart. His struggle with his faith was something I did not expect to resonate with me, but his resolution was certainly… interesting.

Brenner, whom I will call the transactional assassin, is really good at killing and very practical. For a practical assassin though, I am surprised to find that he smokes; I didn’t think an assassin would give themselves away with that habit but maybe it works a little differently in that world, who knows?

Rounding up the group is nineteen year old Learned Edmund, who is the healer and kid who thinks women will jump on him the moment they get the chance to. Also hello misogyny. It’s a very good take on specialisation and incredible nitpicking.

I love the chemistry and I love what happens in this story, and I cannot wait for the sequel. That said, I have a lot of questions after reading this book.

The worldbuilding feels somewhat haphazard. We’re given glimpses but it feels a bit like what I’d expect to read in a summary of a dungeonmaster’s setting. Some things happen in the book that make me go “bwuh?” particularly where geography is concerned but I’m hoping that the Wonder Machine will fill in the blanks.

Summary? This book makes a great reward for completing small but unpleasant tasks. It is also very hard to put down, so don’t make my mistake and read it before bed. Do it after dinner instead.


We survived 2017!

This post should be published on January 1, 2018, and with that I’d like to say…


2017 was a shit year for many of us. It was a great year for many of us too. But if you work in the creative lines, it can feel a bit depressing because there’s just a lot of bad and worse news.

However, we made it this far. We are still alive this day in 2018, and though things may feel the same, they also feel a little different (I hope).

That said, 2017 was a detox year for me. I left a toxic environment behind, started at a new place, began buying books again (though admittedly I have yet to start reading again), wrote fiction for myself, wrote fiction as an experiment again, and ended my beef with ~Samseng~ Samsung phones (hello Note FE).

I’m writing this as a reminder of the things I experienced in 2017. You can consider this a bragging list and so if you want, you can stop reading right here.

So, my year went something like this:

  • January – took my first official business trip down to Singapore. Didn’t quite work out, I left the job a month later but it was a fun trip.
  • February – I found a new job and began the resignation process. It was a long time coming and not a few people were unsurprised.
  • March – My first speaking arrangement! I was invited to be a speaker at the All-In Young Writers Festival in Singapore. It was my first time moderating a panel AND meeting most of the Singaporean Pulp Toast team.
  • April – started at new job. Working hours were killer but it seemed my boss liked most of what I was doing. The slightly slower pace seemed really weird after doing multiple tasks for many different brands.
  • June – I lent a friend of an acquaintance my two typewriters. They were exhibited and it was glorious.
  • July – I went to CAFKL and gotloot. Quite a few of them are on display, but most are in storage for when I actually move to a new place. Also did the whole Bullet Journal thing. It turned out much more productive and efficient at clarifying my thoughts. This was also a hectic time at work cause my boss used it as a test run for another event in November.
  • August – Company trip to Bali! It was fun but I didn’t have as much time as I wanted for introspection. Also towards the end of the month I had a horrible viral fever that ended with rashes for a week.
  • September – took my car on her first multi-hour road trip out of state. She handled it far better than I expected and bonus? Mom liked driving her too.
  • October – Celebrated friend getting registered for marriage and had awesome food. Also wrote a long rant on the personal blog for a game I play. xD This was also the month I bought a new phone.
  • November – Completed Nanowrimo yay! It’s just 50,116 words, probably about 80% of which I will discard, but the process was essential to reassuring myself that I can still write and imagine fiction if I want to. Now to continue it for the upcoming year. Achievement as well: I consistently was able to write at least 400-600 words per session with the stylus if I wanted. The only drawback were sore hands. xD
  • December – Ho gods the final stretch. We’re this close to saying goodbye to the year. Friends got married, social links were re-established, I went on a 3-night trip with mom and we didn’t kill each other, and work is DONE for the year. Wow.

Compared to the last few years, this is the first time in a long time I’ve felt that the year change will be less of just another day and more of time is taking its breath in a long time. Is it a change of eras? Who knows?

I hope your 2018 will be kind and wonderful. For now though, let’s celebrate that WE SURVIVED 2017!

_Inspiration for this post came from Ursula Vernon aka the Wombat Test Subject. PS: Frozen penguin pic from Flickr here.