UnRepresented KL: Before the End

I woke up slightly delirious today. Looked at my phone and it was 8.30 am. Panic. I was supposed to email my final draft to the UnRepresented KL group at 8 am!

Jumped out of bed. Opened up the Word document. Looked for any grammatical mistakes since it was 2 am the last time I looked through everything. Saved. Sent an apologetic email to everyone.

Done.

And now, we only have the last session this Sunday, a farewell dinner and the scheduled reading before we exit from the UnRepresented KL programme for good. The fat lady hasn’t sung yet but I’ve been feeling nostalgic for weeks! To be honest, this programme had been my anchor; that whatever happened on a particular week, I knew that I would have a good time and great company on Sunday. I think I miss being a part of a community. I connect with like-minded people all the time on the Internet but nothing beats looking at a human at the other end of the table, I suppose.

I feel ambivalent about my last draft:

Cons:

  • For one thing, even though it is called a final draft, it’s incomplete with no written ending. I’m hanging on the “draft” bit in final draft.
  • It’s entirely different from the first few drafts I’ve submitted! There are literally no remnants of the previous drafts that survived in this final draft. Absolutely nothing. 
  • Insecurity knocked: I might be over my head on this one. I am missing out Bernice Chauly’s valuable criticism on this final draft, since she won’t be in this final session. I don’t trust my own judgment. I thought I did pretty well on the last two drafts but the others ripped them apart.

Pros:

  • I like it. The previous drafts were annoying to work with because a part of me wanted it to work but another part of me felt the story wasn’t even that good.
  • It actually fits the theme! My current draft is a creative non-fiction of my experience learning about Kuala Lumpur and the people in it. Previously, my short story centred around a Malay girl trapped in a pen-pusher life and the struggle between being an idealistic Generation Y against a Generation X parent. It’s interesting but… it’s not really showcasing unrepresented and/or marginalised people, is it?

My piece had gone under so many transformations.

Initially, it was a horror/fantasy fiction. The plot was similar to the one mentioned above but it had ghosts in the story. GHOSTS. I liked the ghosts, a homage to my previous obsession with Stephen King, but Bernice shot that story down. She said it was too long and the ghosts resulted from a death of a character which Bernice believed need not to die.

So, I axed the horror part of the story, which was honestly my favourite part of it, and focused on the coming-of-age angle. It was not fun. To showcase the trials of a pen-pusher, I had to do a very difficult balance of playing with gut-wrenching emotions but still depicting the dull numbness of an office environment. That was hard. Also, I was depressing myself for days because I wrote to Gary Jules’ “Mad World”:

Try listening to this song for 4 days straight.

So, when I received heavy criticism anyway – Bernice said it wasn’t depressing enough! – I thought, damn, I just can’t write about this character anymore. The character needed depth, which is difficult to develop in a short story format. But it also needed room for the oppressive office environment to be authentic. There’s a story but it is in the wrong format and it definitely does not fit the theme. I spent days, wracking my brain on how to fix the story. I didn’t touch it for days and I was running out of time.

Then, one day, at an off-chance I decided to drink hot chocolate, I ended up staying up until the wee hours of 4 am. Frustrated and bored out of my mind, I reread the blog posts I had on this blog regarding the programme and realised that I liked the blog posts more than the story I wrote.

So, everything fell into place.

I’m still nervous about the upcoming meet-up. I’m not too sure how the others will react to my sudden change of plans. Still, I’m planning to enjoy every minute of it! Who knows when will I be able to spend time with these lovely people?

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