Sunday, November 30, 2008

What David's Been Doing

I hadn't heard from It's a Long Way to the Floor Author David Byck in quite a while, and the fatwa ruling nudged me into getting in touch with him again, as his book is the most powerful account of the benefits physical and mental of yoga you could hope to find. Not that he managed to tempt me to take it up (despite the gift of the yoga mat still hanging on a peg in my bedroom) - my toes still have to send an email to my fingers when they want to meet, and the only position I've really mastered is the corpse pose!

You may remember that David turned his energies to writing fiction, and read an extract for us from a novel in progress at Seksan's last year.

As anyone who's read Long Way can attest, David's enthusiasm and energy is catching, and I loved the Facebook message he sent me in reply to What are you up to? so much that I decided to post it here, with David's permission, to inspire those of you (make that, those of us!) who are less than fully committed to our writing. (Links added by me.)
Dear Sharon,

Thanks for asking what I’m up to. I know I’ve been quiet lately; not attending local readings and so on. Maybe when I tell you how I’ve been spending my time you’ll understand.

First off, I’ve decided I want to write for a living. Actually, I want to write novels. Yeah, I know, having these thoughts is one thing but seeing the words on my screen does give me pause.

Of course I’ve outlined a path that will hopefully lead to my attaining this lofty goal of novelist. Firstly, I’ve taken several creative writing courses here in Malaysia. They were very good and covered the basics of writing structure and storytelling but as I continued to write I realized I needed to master the finer details of the craft.

I picked up several books on the topic and digested as much of what the international experts had to say on the subject. Again, good, but it lacked the human factor. I think for some subjects one must participate in open discussions and debates and be able to ask questions and receive feedback. Reading, How To books can only go so far.

By chance, I heard of a New York literary agent, Donald Maass, who, in addition to his normal duties, also assists his clients in becoming better writers. Donald, a writer himself, has authored several books on writing and holds intensive workshops throughout the year.

In 2007 I flew to Oregon to attend his workshop, Writing the Breakout Novel. It was a lot of work but I enjoyed every minute of it. We began in the early morning, essentially worked through lunch and finished before dinner. The evening was spent on assignments that were due the following day.

One of the topics he covered was how to weave tension into our manuscripts. I thought the hour or so he spent on this subject was not enough. Several likeminded students approached him afterward and he promised to develop a workshop specifically on adding tension to every page. True to his word he did just that.

This past May I flew back to America specifically for this four-day workshop. On the way home I stopped by Gotham Writers’ in New York and had a one-on-one evaluation of my writing style - a reality check, I guess. It was a good way to end the trip. In addition to pointing out my weaknesses they suggested ways for improvement.

Another step I’ve taken is to increase the amount of time I spend reading. Although I read as much as the next person, I was reminded by you, Sharon, that writers need to read as much as they write. Maybe even more.

Once I admitted you were correct, I rearranged my schedule, cut out all or most of the unnecessary activities I did and diverted that extra time to additional reading. To what extreme have I gone? Well, in addition to reading instead of vegging out in front of the television at night, as often as I can I take the KTM or LRT to my office or meetings and use the time I would normally spend driving, reading. Okay, okay, the other reason I take public transport is an attempt to reduce my carbon footprint.

Of course I’ve been writing on a daily basis. I’ve just completed a political thriller and am beginning the first, self edit. As you know, writing is the easy part. Also, I now have a column in YogaLife Magazine. The column is actually the sequel to my book, It’s A Long Way To The Floor. Since each chapter is a stand-alone essay, I’m releasing the entire book, one chapter at a time. It’s an interesting project.

As for my goal of becoming a novelist, I’ll share with you why my confidence level is so high. I believe writing talent, along with most things in life is not something we necessarily have to be born with. I believe the key to success is to practice, practice, practice.

Gary Player, the South African PGA golfer once chipped the ball in the hole from quite a distance off the green. As he approached the flag he heard someone in the gallery shout out, “Lucky stroke.” Mr. Player turned around and replied, “It’s amazing, the more I practice the luckier I get.”

I have adopted and applied this same theory to many things in my life … my writing being one of them. My recently completed manuscript is my fourth. Holding it up against my first I believe the quality of writing and storytelling has vastly improved. Well enough to hit the New York Best Sellers List? I’m not sure about that. But I do believe if it is not this one it will be the next.

Or maybe the one after that.

Thanks again for asking about me Sharon. Take care and great job you’re doing with the blog.

Spread the peace,

david byck


BorneoExpatWriter said...

You're definitely on the right track, taking creative writing classes, attending conferences, having your work evaluated, and continually writing. You have a goal, but more importantly, you're focusing your attention on achieving it. It's easy for all of us to talk novels, but let us - myself included - get beyond our own hype, and deliver. That's my challenge to you, to myself and to everyone else "working on a novel". Since you (and many other readers of Sharon's great blogs) may not know me, do check out today's Star(Nov 30th) Starmag, p 15 & 17. Now that we're acquainted, enjoy the writing process and good luck, too! Oops, I'm running late to my own reading in Kuching!

Eliza said...

Robert (above): I plan to get your book next.

Sharon, thanks for posting David's message. I read his book a long, long while back and it's wonderful that he's continued with the writing, learning, writing, reading, etc..Coincidentally, with my MBA coming to a close (insya Allah), I've been thinking of ways to focus more on my writing, too. Am re-reading The Artist's Way for starters..
Your blog, Sharon, as always, inspires.

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Thanks. To supplement the book I've been doing a series of blogs, The Story Behind the Story of Lovers and Strangers Revisited. So far I've posted the first ten stories:
All the best, Robert

Anonymous said...

Golf is a skill, writing is an art. Being a good writer is like being a good womanizer, you can become more skillful,but you can't become better :)

Good writing, IMHO, comes from experience and imagination. You have to have THAT kind of mind. I think you just have to be a little warped of mind to even want to write in the first place. Think of the best (the very best) writers, Pratchett or Herriot or Adams, any one of those instant classics, you'll find one thing in common : they either write from experience, of the have THAT kind of mind.