I was a Freelance Editor at 13

photo-1434030216411-0b793f4b4173

(Taken from Unsplashed.com)

 

Yep, no shit.

I wasn’t paid though. I did it as a favour.

As to how I got the ‘job’, there’s a bit of a story behind it.

 

How I Got Tapped To Be Editor

When I young, I became something of a budding writer. This reputation mostly stemmed from the fact that I wrote lots of horrible poems (gotta give the teenage angst an outlet). But my classmates were duly impressed by my ‘talent’. Even my teachers were kind of impressed with my poems (although they must have had winced at my rather amateurish attempts) and subtly nudged me to develop my ‘poetry inclinations’.

I was 13 when I hit the peak of my writing productivity. I churned out horrible poems, made pitiful attempts at short stories, and even co-wrote a book with a friend. When I say “co-wrote”, what I really mean is that my friend came up with the idea and wrote the lion share of the novel. I jumped into the project late. So I mostly helped to proofread, made sure that the plot was coherent and contributed a chapter or two. But my most significant role was to… you’ve guessed it… write a poem or two for the book.

I don’t know why a very Tom Clancy-esque Cold War triller required poems but it was a creative decision we made. So we’ll have to live with that.

The book focused on a series of military subterfuges between the U.S. and Russia. And like all 13-year-old budding writers who wanted to make the book more exciting and cool, we added a twist at the end (spoiler alert: China got involved. And possibly North Korea).

Yep, we actually finished the book. We planned to write the sequel but didn’t go through with it as the 9/11 attacks had occurred. But that’s besides the point.

So my friend printed, bound, and laminated a bunch of copies before distributing them among our classmates. While he put my name down as co-writer on the cover, I have to say that he was the one who saw through this project. I was losing steam at the end. That’s why he’s now a neurosurgeon and I’m not.

The reception for the book was mostly polite enthusiasm. I don’t think our classmates were captivated by the story (it had a rather predictable plot and was full of stock characters), but they were definitely impressed that we wrote a book. So in their eyes, we were legit writers.

LEGIT.

And given my prior status as a ‘poet’, I was doubly legit.

DOUBLY LEGIT, I tell you.

And it was this very reputation that convinced a classmate to ‘hire’ me.

As an editor.

A legit one? I don’t know. But we’ll leave that judgement aside for now.

This classmate (whom we shall call ‘N’) approached me one morning during the homeroom period. He was working on a book and needed my reputable ‘skills’. Awesome, I said, another co-writer status.

But N shook his head. He didn’t want me to be the co-writer. He had finished the book (the first draft to be exact). What he wanted was my ‘skills’ to make it as awesome as possible.

Oh, so an editor then.

N was confused and asked what an editor was.

I told him it was someone who edits or make changes to a book.

Horror crept upon N’s face as he unconsciously inched away from me. No, no, no, he didn’t want any changes, he just wanted the book to be as awesome as possible.

Now it was my turn to be confused. I told N that it wasn’t possible to make the book awesome without some changes.

But he was adamant. No changes.

I told him that the book would need some changes if he wanted it to be awesome.

No, he said.

Yes, I said.

We traded ‘yes’ and ‘no’ until I finally offered a ‘compromise’. I would write my comments in the margins and suggest what changes he had to make. It was up to him to accept my suggestions. He had the final say.

Satisfied with the ‘compromise’, N said he would pass me the manuscript the next day.

Damn writers, I thought, as the classmate left my homeroom.

Then I remembered I was a writer too. Well, sort of.

And that was how I became an “editor”.

 

Editors all is Grammar Nazis… But Me Not

The next day, N handed me the manuscript. I thumbed through it and estimated that it was about the same length as the book I co-wrote with Mr. Future Brain Surgeon.

And we’re talking about 70 A4-size pages of single-spaced, 12pt, Times New Roman font. So each page would have about 400 – 600 words, bringing the total to about 28,000 – 42,000 words.

It wasn’t a lot, honestly, but it was still going to be a slog.

I told the classmate to give me a week.

(Current me: That was a fucking optimistic estimate. It probably took me two weeks).

He nodded. He was fine with that.

I added a parting remark. My command of grammar was not the best. So if I missed out any glaring grammatical errors, it wasn’t intentional. But I promised I would do my best to spot both his and my grammatical mistakes.

N gave me a puzzled look. But you’re a writer, he said.

Well… kind of… but that doesn’t mean my grammar is perfect.

N looked more confused. He said that I wrote a book.

Co-wrote a book, I corrected him.

Still, he pressed on, you’re a good writer so shouldn’t your grammar be perfect?

I finally managed to convince N that I had some semblance of grammar knowledge to be an editor and he left my homeroom with some trust (and hope) that his manuscript was in good hands.

I might have also pulled the “co-writer” and “poet” cards on him.

 

That Goddamn Sentence

A quick gist of the story.

It was about a 15-year-old protagonist from the hood who was hell-bent on acquiring cash, power and status and become the most powerful underworld figure. A very run-of-the-mill “get rich or die trying” plot.

It’s actually a fucking awesome story. Awesome but completely un-fucking-believable.

Somehow, our 15-year-old protagonist rose through the ranks to control the drugs and weapons trade along the U.S. East Coast and had numerous gangs, triads and mafias swear fealty to him.

And he accomplished that within 2 years.

That’s some hardcore dude.

At that time I did not know much about the gang culture in the States, and whatever knowledge I had about mafias and gangs came from watching American and Hong Kong gangster films. But I knew enough to go “whaaaattttt… how’s that possible?” when I read the story.

It was also at this moment when I came across the sentence that would cause me and N to argue for two days.

 

180 vs. 360

All rags-to-riches stories require a little psychological insight into the psyche of the protagonist.

It was very simple insight. Basically the protagonist was tired of being the underdog and wanted to be the top dog. Instead of being a low-level gangbanger, he realized he had to make the change soon, otherwise he was going to wind up dead or in jail.

This was when that sentence made its appearance:

So I decided to turn around my life 360 degrees and start on a new path.

Except, something was not right.

I thought for a minute. Yeah, something’s definitely not right.

I stared at the sentence for a couple more minutes, that annoying thought niggling at my brain before I finally got why the sentence wasn’t right.

And it wasn’t just the grammar.

If you still haven’t got it, I’ll illustrate below.

 

Line 1

So this is the life path of the protagonist. He’s on the highway to Hell. And he wants to escape it.

Does he make a 180 degrees turn or a 360 degrees turn? Let’s go with 180 degrees first.

180 degrees:

 

Line 2

So the red line represents the protagonist’s new path. He’s now heading away from the shitty life and onto greater riches. And see the two 90 degrees turns he has to make?

90 + 90 = 180 degrees.

Maths, motherfucker. Do you speak it?

So what happens if the protagonist makes a 360 degrees turn? Let’s find out.

360 degrees:

 

Line 3

90 + 90 + 90 + 90 = 360 degrees.

The protagonist is back on the highway to Hell. He literally made a full circle.

And that was what I explained to N. I even did the drawings, but differently at that time.

The sentence simply did not make any sense.

No, N said, it made sense. The protagonist is turning his life around.

Yes, I countered, but turning his life around doesn’t mean turning in a full circle. The sentence was supposed to be an analogy.

No, N argued, it doesn’t make sense to only turn half a circle. If you were driving and you had to make a U-Turn, you would go back to where you came from. So the protagonist had to make a full 360 degrees to turn his life around.

Yes, but, I mean, but, hang on…

I pointed out to N that the explanation didn’t make sense and worst of all, it didn’t apply to the road of life, which in all honesty, a very fucked up road branching off int0 numerous directions only to end at the same destination.

We had a standoff for two days over that sentence. I was bloody adamant on amending it. N was bloody adamant on not amending it.

In the end, I managed to end the standoff.

By pulling the “co-writer” and “poet” cards on N again.

 

How I Got Fired

I actually don’t remember the details. But the 180 vs. 360 argument sowed the seeds of discord and in the end we parted over creative differences. Whatever it was, I edited the manuscript to the best of my ability before my departure. Fortunately, there was no lasting animosity between us two. And to N’s credit, he did finish an entire manuscript all by himself at the age of 14 and I respected him for that.

After that project I swore I would never work for a client.

Then I became a copywriter.

 

 

Advertisements

Fiction Friday: “In the Beginning”

heaven

(Taken from Unsplash.com)

I had this little story rattling around my head for a couple of years. I’ve never wrote it down, until now. It’s influenced by Andy Weir’s short story The Egg, including the second person perspective. My story is not as well thought out as Weir though. Honestly the plot is kind of contrived and half-assed. But I needed to get it out of my head.

A side note: I read The Martian when Weir was still posting it on his website until he had to take it down when it was published as a book. So I’m kinda hipster.

Anyway, story.

_________________________________________________________

 

You stood outside an imposing Gate when you saw a man whose size seemed to fill the entire expanse strolling out to meet you.

“Welcome,” He said. Despite His imposing bulk, His voice had the timbre of a grandfather’s kindly tenor.

“I’m in Heaven,” you said.

“More or less.”

“Who are you?”

“I am God the Father.”

“Are you here to judge me?”

“No,” He said, “I am here to guide you.”

“How?”

“Walk with me.”

You followed the Father through the Gate and into Heaven. You stood for a moment and noticed something strange.

“Where’s everyone?”

The Father smiled.

“There is only us,” He said.

You stood near the edge of Heaven, uncertain and wary of the Father and of the endless empty realm that stretched out before you.

“Come,” said the Father.

You looked back and saw that the Gate were closed. It was only forward now. The Father waited as you slowly walked towards Him.

“So what now?” you asked Him.

“Now we talk. I am sure you have questions.”

And as you walked through the Isles of the Blessed, the Father recounted the entire history of the universe: its birth, its habits and whims, and its eventual death.

Thus passed an eternity.

You and the Father were walking on the Celestial Lake when you came across a being that radiate light so intensely that even the Father had to shield His eyes.

“I am God the Son,” said the being, “Walk with me.”

So you left the Father and walked with the Son. And as you walked through the Elysian Fields, the Son revealed to you the entire history of humankind: its innocence, its boundless energies and relentless pursuits, and its eventual destruction.

Thus passed an eternity.

You and the Son were walking across the Lands of Paradise when you met an old man who was filled with such contemplative peace that even the Son was humbled before him.

“I am God the Holy Spirit,” the old man said. “Walk with me.”

So you left the Son and walked with the Holy Spirit. And as you walked through the fiery firmaments of Heaven, the Holy Spirit enlightened you on your entire histories: your conceptions, your numerous life journeys, and your eventual passings.

Thus passed an eternity.

You and the Holy Spirit were walking across the outermost sphere of Heaven when you came across another imposing Gate.

“Now it is time for you to walk alone,” said the Holy Spirit.

“Why?”

The Holy Spirit smiled. “That is for you to find out.”

“Am I going to Hell?”

He shook his head. “Hell, Heaven, Earth, they are merely different shades of you.”

“But who am I?”

“You are what you are.”

And with a gentle nudge, the Holy Spirit ushered you through and into the darkness. You turned around and saw his wizened smile disappear behind the Gate.

So you wandered alone, lost and abandoned. Constantly searching for the Gate back to Heaven.

Thus passed an eternity.

You were drifting through the emptiness when you started to observe your surroundings not as they were, not as they are, but as what they could be. You moved across the void and knew what you had to do.

And you said:

“Let there be light.”

The Second Last Week (A Sequel)

I’m back, yet again. It’s definitely not the first time I’ve let my blog rot away. There were times when I did not blog for a month or two. But at almost five months, this is by far the longest I’ve been away from my blog.

There’s two reasons for this absence. First, I was President of a student society for International and Exchange students in Sydney University. It’s called Unimates. I did mention Unimates a couple of times here. For the past five months or so, I was so damn hyper-focused on Unimates that I didn’t have much for anything else. Then of course, there’s coursework and other campus activities. Anyway, I’ve officially stepped down last Thursday.

The second reason – and this is the main reason – is that I was sick and tired of blogging. I could have used the excuse that being a President of a student society was time draining. But then that would be an easy cop out. I was Vice-President last semester and even though I was busy, I still manage to blog on a monthly basis.

But it seemed this year I had no will to blog. I wouldn’t say I stop blogging completely. I did wrote a few blog post for my society’s blog. But then, that’s a society’s blog and as the then-current President, there’s a limit to how much you can say, although I did try to take certain liberties (ahem).

But yes, I was tired of blogging. I could have continue blogging, but then it’ll be nothing but boring fillers: “Beloved Blog, today my friend was a judgmental nincompoop. I shall cease any correspondence with this offending and odious person. BAH!”  Well, you get the idea. Still, it’s not that I have nothing to write about. I do. But sometimes it’s harder to get it onto the screen and get your ideas across to the readers. And to be honest, I make a very horrible blogger. I promised to write a blog advert for this Singaporean upstart back in February and I never got to it. And then there’s Mike Thomas’s film that I promised to write about it way back in October.

Yes, I’m a shithead. Or as I mentioned, an offending and odious person.

So I’m back. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’ve put too much investment into this blog to let it really, really rot away. And now that I’m no longer President of Unimates, maybe I’ll have more time to rant about random stuff.

But this post is not about random rants. This post is about the sequel to the very short story called The Second Last Week. I wrote it last year for one of the Unimates’ event. It was supposed to be a short event description for the final Unimates event (a dinner party) and it somehow turned into a very short story. You can read it here.

The sequel to The Second Last Week is for the exact same event, only eight months later. This Unimates dinner party actually took place last Friday. When I was writing the event description, I thought it would be fun to write a sequel. So I banged out another very short story.

The Second Last Week has influences from the 1998 film Six-String Samurai to Kevin Smith’s Dogma. And it also placed Global Financial Crisis and the University of Sydney Union’s membership pricing in a humorous context. The sequel still references to Six-String Samurai but I’ve changed the rest. I was slightly more heavy-handed in terms of pop-culture referencing in the sequel. Anyway, enough jabbering on my part. Read on.

 

_____________________________________________________

 

The Second Last Week (A Sequel)

You sit up and look around. The surrounding landscape stretches out before you, barren and undulating. A tree or two, grow out from the ground cracked by centuries of heat. The trees’ barks are roasted to the colour black.

“What…” a hoarse sound escapes from your mouth.

You remember dying at the hands of Lord Exam. The brief pain when his blade severed your head from your body. And the sweet, sweet darkness that you succumbed to. And afterwards…

Hold on.

A small fragment of memory is floating around. You push through the fogginess of your brain and try to reach it. So close. The memory of laughter, of food, of drinks. But where did these memories come from?

You look around again. There are no sign of your guitar and samurai sword. You look up, shielding your eyes from the blinding sun, and see, for the first time, a red gash on the sky. That’s odd, you thought, you don’t remember seeing that there.

“Are you lost?” a smooth, baritone voice shatters the desert silence.

You half turn and see a strange-looking creature, with dirty, matted orange fur, staring at you.

“I, er, I can’t remember.”

The creature raises an eyebrow quizzically. It continues staring at you with its dark green eyes. Slowly, it circles around you, its right hand casually resting on the hilt of a small sword.

“You cannot remember if you are lost?”

You eye it warily. The creature could be a marauder. They were frequent in the desert. But then, it didn’t look like any marauder you’ve seen before.

“Where am I?” you cough, the words sandpapering your throat as they left your mouth. “Is this the Mojave Desert?”

The creature stops pacing. “Mojave Desert? No, my friend, this is the Red Waste.”

“I’m sorry, but I seem to be suffering from amnesia. I don’t remember being your friend.”

The creature hisses. “It is a mark of courtesy. Unless, you would like to have the honour of becoming my enemy.”

Small as the creature was, it looks as if it handled its fair share of battles. Furthermore, the creature was armed.

“I’m sorry if I’ve offended you. I remembered being killed by Lord Exam. The last memory I had was laughter, and weirdly enough, of food and drinks too.”

“And who is this Lord Exam?”

“He is…” you pause. Lord Exam, Lord Assignments, and Lady Projects were the most fearsome of marauders. How could the creature not know the tripartite of Doom?

“Hold on, where am I?”

“As I have mentioned, you are in the Red Waste. To be more precise, we are in the Red Waste,” the baritone reply resonates through the desert.

For such a small creature, it sure has a deep voice.

“I know, but I mean, what is this place? I remembered I was in the United States.”

“United States? I do not know where that is. But no, my friend, you are in the land of Essos.”

“Essos?”

The creature sighs and rubs its forehead. “Yes, the land of Essos. The land of the Free Cities. The land of the Dothraki Sea. The land of the once mighty empire, Valyrian Freehold.”

You blink at the creature, confused.

“Clearly I have not managed to enlighten you. I hope that you will regain your memory. But for the time, we must continue walking. The Mother of Dragons will be here soon, and she wants my head.”

“The Mother of Dragons?”

“Ah yes, a very beautiful woman. Her eyes are pools of lavender, while her hair shone with the white of the moon. I promised to wed her, but wanderlust took over me and I escaped from the City of Qarth.”

You stare at the creature.

“Clearly you do not believe me. But now it is not the time to convince you. Come, we must continue our journey. Can you walk?”

You slowly get onto your feet, stretching the tensed muscles. Apart from a sore backside, your body is still in good condition. Taking a few unsteady steps, you stroll beside the creature. You did not realize how small the creature is. The top of its hat barely reaches the height of your kneecap.

“By the way, what’s the red thing in the sky?”

The creature looks up, the wide brim of its floppy hat shielding its green eyes from the sun.

“I have heard many stories in Qarth. Some say that it is the Dragons’ comet. Some say, war is coming. But the most frequent story I have heard is that the gods are angry.”

“The gods are angry? With whom?”

“I do not know. But the tale is that someone was kicked out from the realm of the gods after failing to pay for a meal.”

That sounds familiar. But you have no idea where you have heard that tale before.

“I see. That’s an odd tale.”

“It is. But I do not believe in these stories from Qarth.”

“I’m sorry but I don’t think we’ve introduced ourselves. I would have gave you mine if I remembered it”

The creature smiles. With flourish, the creature doffs its wide, floppy hair and gives a deep bow.

“My name is Puss-In-Boots. It is a pleasure to meet you in the Red Waste.”

“And it is my pleasure too.”

“Come, my friend. The Red Waste is a treacherous desert and we are a long way to the City of Braavos.”

Above, the red gash glowers from the sky.