328. Cut!

It’s the most simultaneously painful and necessary thing you’ll ever have to do, whether you’re a writer, a film editor, or a person who believes in auto-surgery.

(“auto” referring to “self”, not “automatic”)

It’s what I have been doing since Friday. I’ve learned that Mr. King’s sagely advice of “Draft 2 = Draft 1 – 10%” is much, much harder than it sounds – I’m not sure if it’s because Mr. King is a verbose first-draft writer, or I’m just being an egocentric little scribbler who needs to kill his darlings.

From an excerpt from Johann’s Fantastic Adventures Through Time and a short story I wrote early in January to the steampunk story involving coffee-delivering zeppelins and a hilarious play concerning an elephant in the room, I edited them all. Along the way, I have lost sleep, cancelled appointments, walked out of meetings because they were wasting my time, killed trees, spilled ink, attended class, and I have come out the other side.

(not really. There are still 2 incomplete submissions, 1 due in 10 hours’ time, and another in 34 hours’ time; but, as always, sleep comes first)

I find, though, that the longer a story is, the easier it is to find materials to cut. From both the excerpt from Johann’s Fantastic Adventures Through Time (9.6k words) and the steampunk story (10k words), I have managed to cut the mandatory 10% that Mr. King requires of me; but from the short stories (2.4k words and 4.9k words), I have shaved off like 7 or 8 percent before throwing in the towel and concluding that if I cut anymore, it would be the literary equivalent of an amputation.

(“Literary Amputation” should be a thing)

It’s the same thing with humans, I guess. The bigger you are, the easier it is to take away 10% of you. Heck, some corporations make good living by promising to take away 50% of you. But the leaner, thinner, shorter you are, the more difficult and closer to amputation it is to cut you down any further. I would say that the same thing could be said for our egos, but I think I’ll revise that and say we should just amputate our egos off and lump it in with the 10%.

But here’s the thing about cutting, even if you don’t hit 10%: just by trying, you are already making it better. In my quest for the elusive 10% cut, I have spotted more redundant words than my egocentric little scribbler’s heart would dare to recognize, and I have mercilessly cut them down.

Some of them have evaded my gaze and are still in hiding; but I bet with more time, I would be able to weed them out one by one.

I’ll say that I’m proud of what I’ve done. And with (most of) the submissions out of the way, the waiting game begins, and I’ll be doubling back to my email inbox multiple times daily to see who liked me enough to pass me on for publication.

In the meantime, there’s a couple more call for submissions due in August. I already have a few ideas floating about for them.

But before any of that… sleep.


327. This Is Another Short Post

…to let you know that so far so good, I have sent in 4 out of 7 submissions. 2 out of the remaining 3 have not been written yet, and I’m still waiting on a miracle.

In the meantime, I’m going to continue editing Johann’s Fantastic Adventures Through Time. After so many months apart, I’m beginning to suspect that it was written by a far more brilliant writer, and that I’ve locked him up somewhere and taken over his identity.

I’m also hoping that the brilliant writer would come back and continue the work he’s begun, because I have close to no idea how to produce work on that level.

326. Oh, Hi There

It is going to be 10 minutes past midnight, and I’m still in the middle of editing my submissions for various anthologies and organizations.

So there will be no post today, unless you call this bite-sized life update a post. In which case there is a short post today.

Cross your fingers, pray for me, and may the odds be ever in my favor.

I’ll see you tomorrow, or the day after that.

325. You Will Meet A Tall, Dark Stranger

You will meet a tall, dark stranger. He will be where you wouldn’t think he is, and he will be everything you think he is… And some more.

He will like you, and you will like him. He will be sweet, sensitive, and have a penchant for witty jokes and diamond-shaped cufflinks. On your third meeting, they will be matching red hearts, like the ones on poker cards, and you will notice it, but not say anything about it, because you like a man who knows how to be subtle.

…What’s that? Will he be handsome? Heavens, how on earth would I know? Pay attention now.

You will invite him for dinner, and he will accept. He will show up five minutes before six, and you will tell him the dinner’s not until seven, and he will say, oh no, I must have mixed up the time. May I use the bathroom? And you will say that he can, and when he’s in the bathroom, you will hurry into the kitchen and turn up the oven temperature in hopes of getting the chicken done faster, and you will end up with a burnt chicken, a cut index finger – right below the second knuckle; it will be a shallow cut, but it will bleed nonetheless -, and tears when he comes into your kitchen to investigate the ringing sound that is the smoke alarm.

He will hug you and tell you that it is going to be okay, he’s there now. He will tell you that before he graduated from business school and started work in the investment bank, he was in a culinary course for two – you will say “ouch!” at this point, as he applies the iodine on the cut – years before deciding that he didn’t want to spend his life in some fancy hotel’s kitchen. In that moment, you will look into his deep, dark eyes, observe his stubbled jawline, and realize that you’re in love.

Yes? …No, I don’t know if you’ll end up eating home or going out. Why would you think I know that? Moving on.

You will ask about his family on the third time you go out. It will be over dinner at a bar and grill, and he will be halfway through his barbequed ribs. You will ask the question as you’re reaching for a french fry on his plate, and you will bite half of it off before you note his hesitation, and he will say that he doesn’t want to talk about it.

You will ask him why doesn’t he want to talk about it, and he will insist that he doesn’t want to talk about it, and he will ask to be excused, even though the tickets to the 8 o’clock show to A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder have already been bought, and are sitting in his breast pocket. The first thing that crosses your mind is that if he’s going to leave, will he at least leave the tickets so that you can go and watch it. He will leave after paying the bill, and before the apology finds its way to your lips.

He will not reply your texts or answer your calls. You will try and find him on Facebook, on Twitter, on Google Plus, even on Myspace, and you will not find him anywhere. You will drown your sorrows in wine and belch them out in song. You will wish you have never met him to begin with, and you will spend years moping over the one that got away.

Well, why not, I’m quite done here, anyway. What’s his name, you ask? Goodness, you’re a basket full of questions, aren’t you? I don’t know, I haven’t met him. You can’t expect me to know the name of a man I don’t know, can you? Run along now, and remember to tell your friends where they can get their fortunes read.

324. Disconnectivity

I woke up last Saturday with a dim feeling of “awdangit” when I remembered I didn’t do a Fiction Friday post on account of being too tired. It was 9.30A.M., and before anything else, I thought I’ll go and have breakfast. I did, and when I saw the home computer beside the TV, I thought that I should look into the problem with the monitor the family had been pestering me about for the couple of days before that.

It took about 10 minutes for me to realize that the graphic card came loose inside the CPU, and with a little push, the card slid right back into place, and the monitor resumed its duties as as monitor. I sat down for a while and clicked around, looking up the Wikipedia entries for Mr. Jonze’s Her and The Elder Scrolls’ Wiki.

Which was when the internet abruptly stopped.

I stared at the modem for a while, and it stared back. When nothing changed after a minute, I asked mom:

“Is the internet off?”

She looked up from her phone and asked, “Is it?”

“Did you pay the internet bill?”

Silence from her. And then finally, “I asked your brother to come with me yesterday to pay the bills. He didn’t want to.”

“But I just fixed the monitor.”

She shrugged. “It’s going to be a quiet weekend,” she said contemplatively.

It was.

I didn’t notice most of the weekend passing by. I busied myself with playing Skyrim and editing some stories I was planning to submit for most of Saturday, and the on Sunday I had an afternoon date and then a family dinner. The feeling of isolation from the net didn’t kick in until Monday night, when I arrived home earlier than usual from work and found the internet still not working.

You guys still haven’t paid the internet bill yet?

IDK we paid them but the internet still isn’t working.

(she actually says “IDK” instead of “I don’t know”)

Didn’t you, like, call them?

Dono. Call them tomorrow.

Later that night, I was desperate enough for internet that I connected through my phone’s 3G connection. It was painfully slow, but it was the internet, all right. I wandered onto Facebook, Twitter, clicked around aimlessly for a bit, and wondered why was I so desperate to get here in the first place.

(a little bit like how dogs/cats are so desperate to head out, but once they’re out, they’re not even sure what to do with themselves)

I ended up disconnecting after 13 minutes, contenting myself with reading an SF short story before going off to sleep.

The internet was back for real on Tuesday night. The first thing I used it to do was to browse 9gag, effectively wasting a full hour of time I could have spent doing more productive things.

(although when you think about it, virtually anything could be considered more productive than browsing 9gag. Like learning how to fold origami, for instance)

I sometimes wonder why we do this to ourselves.

323. Poem – The Mid Terms

The time has come,
The day is here,
To take our mid-terms’ test.
My notes are scattered,
My eyes are red,
My head is quite a mess.

Though I have lived
for quite a while;
Though I know that I must try;
When I see
an exam sheet,
All I want to do is cry.

Alas! There’s no
way out of this;
I hear Mr. Churchill saying:
“If you find
yourself in hell,
This I say: Keep Going.”



I spent some good minutes, sacrificing sleep and time I could have spent on writing my 5,000-word assignment (due Friday), on a long-overdue Fiction Friday entry. It was a sweet little story, and when I put the last full stop onto the screen, there was just pride swelling in me – like I had just become a father.

And then when I hit “Publish”, perhaps taking its cue from George Martin, WordPress decided to crash and wipe out the post and every draft of it that could have been saved. And after some seconds of panicked clicking, I found myself at the blank “Add New Post” page, the realization that the brand spanking new short story I wrote for this space is now gone forever.

Now, I try not to swear too much. Well, yeah, I say “damn” and “hell” and “shit” a while lot, but those are lesser swear words, y’knowhatImean? And due to the limitations of the English language, there just doesn’t seem to be an appropriate word to express my outrage. So I’m just going to say


and leave it at that.