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Writing about a writing workshop

Today, I went to a writing workshop by Tunku Halim, (even tho it was for people above 13, and I was sitting right alongside schoolgirls, but then age is certainly not a measure of talent) because I was curious what a workshop might be like, never having attended one.

Halim is a horror writer, and judging by the piercing (read scary, lol) gaze he directs at you, he is a good one! I read out the writing exercises I’d written (all crap, obviously), just because he gave me that stare.

I’ve picked up Juriah’s Song, and am waiting to have nightmares. Delicious.

Though the workshop was on “Winning writing competitions”, Tunku Halim did a fair bit about writing topics (which was the part I was looking forward to). A lot of the theory he explained I already knew from my previous writing classes, and reading. Theory is still theory, though, and I’m painstakingly discovering the pitfalls as I write.

That doesn’t mean there was nothing to take away from the workshop, absolutely to the contrary. A few of Halim’s words stuck with me, and though I made no notes, I think I can paraphrase them pretty accurately:

Writing is a craft like any other. It is like making a table or a chair, first you make a leg, then another, you paint and polish. It is not just talent, it is also a lot of practice. (Even if Tunku Halim had done the workshop solely to encourage me, he could not have done better than utter these words. Sigh. Talent? In my next life. But I have hope alright, because I intend to work hard.)

Do not wait for inspiration to strike. Start writing, and you will start getting ideas.
(Yay! And thanks to this class, I’ve learnt how to find inspiration everywhere.)

The more you write, the better your writing will become, so set aside time to write, and write regularly. (This is my new year resolution—1000 words a day. Ambitious, right?)

The best way to know if your story is good is to let it lie for a month. Come back to it then, and you’ll know how good or bad it is. No critique groups required. ( I have read this elsewhere. I can be my own critic, I just have to be honest. I do this quite a bit, but sometimes I do not wait long enough. Note to self: WAIT)

Keep writing new stories, then go back to the old ones. Ten years later, your first story will show up to you for what it is. (Very true, after one year of writing, I flinch at my first ones. I think after ten years, if I live that long, I’ll get an ulcer just looking at my old work!)

Re-writing is key. Even the best writers go through multiple drafts. But re-write only till the point when you realize you’re now making small changes, to possibly detrimental effect. (Note to self—know when to stop.)

It is ok to keep writing new stories without finishing the old ones. Just make sure you go back to them later and finish them. Even the best writers have lots of unfinished stories in their folders. (Yay again! I’m not alone!)

The God is in the detail. Whether it is character or setting, the small sensory details bring them to life. ( Note to self— check out the last story for sensory details when you re-write.)

When you first write, write for yourself. When you revisit it, write for the reader. (Absolutely.)

On the whole, I think it was three hours well spent. And now, I’m going to curl up with Juriah’s Song.

P.S: Thanks to Tunku Halim, for letting me borrow the pictures off his blog.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

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