Written for Muzlimbuzz.sg | February 14th 2013 | Link
In an earlier article, we got ourselves acquainted with a rising local Malay novelist, Munirah Jaafar, who at the young age of 20 has already made waves with two published books under her pen name, ‘Nirrosette’. Selected as an ambassador for Bulan Bahasa 2012, the eloquent writer will be publishing her third book this year – Tunggu Aira di Kota Bandung.
In this article, Munirah walks us through her writing process and offers tips for budding writers.
Get Over Your Worries & Make the First Step
First and most importantly, every person who intends to write a book should never think of the outcome; it does not matter who is going to read your book, nor does it matter if anyone will even reading your book at all! What is more important is to just write and let your ideas flow.
Next, when it comes to getting your work published, if opportunities don’t come to you, seek for them! My own journey began with me e-mailing my current publisher, Jemari Seni, asking them if they are willing to publish a manuscript by a Singaporean. They gave me the green light and asked for the first ten chapters to see if my writing suits their company.
Truthfully, when I e-mailed them, I did not even have a manuscript ready! I had to scramble to get the chapters ready within a month but Alhamdulillah, they liked what they read and from there, Ikhlas, A.K. was born.
The Writing Process
For myself, I start with the big picture and move on to the finer details. Hence, my writing process begins by writing down the entire storyline first, a plan of what the story is about. From there, I proceed to brainstorm the different chapters, jotting down briefly for each chapter points like what I want different characters to do or say, or the important events that are to happen in that chapter. Once I have these ideas laid down, I will work on the different chapters as it goes.
Personally, I do not usually have an ending to the story when I first start out. I prefer to let the story flow by itself first, letting it have a life of its own, and only when I am nearing the end do I decide how I want the story to end. Every writing process will have their unique set of challenges. The ones I faced differed from one novel to another.
For Ikhlas, A.K., the problem was in reaching the target number of pages. Setting out to write a novel for the first time meant that I had no prior experience to writing 450 pages on Microsoft Word, and what that meant was that I quickly ran out of ideas halfway through! I really thought that I would not be able to make it, but I took some time and started expanding the story. I made the main characters more profound and developed more stories about the protagonist’s family and friends; essentially, I build up the characters and made him (or her) more prominent. I too inserted more religious facts and stories.
For Nah, Untuk Awak!, my problem was in living up to the expectations of the readers. I really did not expect Ikhlas, A.K. to be as well received as it was, and there were thus a lot of things I had to consider. But Alhamdulillah, I was able to manage all these expectations by listening to the readers, by finding out what were the things they liked and the things they did not, and thus worked my story from there.
As for my most recent manuscript, Tunggu Aira di Kota Bandung, halfway through I really gave up because I did not have any ideas to continue the narration. However, Alhamdulillah the passion I have and the support I get from my family, readers and my editor played a huge part in pushing me to get the manuscript completed. I guess not having any ideas to continue is normal; the difference is in choosing to give up and leave it like it is, or to pursue it till the end!
After publishing Ikhlas, A.K. and Nah, Untuk Awak! which had Islamic content in them, readers tend to hold this assumption that I am without error nor sin. Everything I said or did were judged by the public eye, from taking photos with classmates that include men, listening to songs, to even wearing loose jeans! But the truth is that I am only a twenty year old with strengths and weaknesses, who makes mistakes every now and then.
My sole purpose in writing is not to preach to others, but to serve as a self-reflection for myself as well. Hence, like I mentioned earlier in the beginning, the most important thing in writing is to not think too much of what people will think, or how they will respond to your writing (if they respond at all) for these will hinder you. So the best thing is, my advise, is to just write and let it flow.