The Wheel and Axle

Thirty Things I Learned From Jessica Zafra’s Writing Workshop

by on Mar.09, 2014, under Literature, My Life

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Pre-workshop Meet and Greet

Last year, I was lucky to have been chosen to participate in Jessica Zafra’s first writing workshop, “Write Here, Write Now.” We had a meet-and-greet in November, which Jessica featured in her blog. In the succeeding weeks before the end of 2013, I also met up with some participants to get to know them and prep ourselves up. It was nice to have like-minded folks getting ready to dive into a workshop with one of our most famous local authors.

We started the workshop in January – four non-consecutive Saturdays until March 8th. Held in the Ayala Museum, it was sponsored by the Ayala Foundation.


Alin, alin, alin ang naiba?

Now, the workshop is over. I’ve finished the first draft of my novel, but looking at the revisions I need to make is rather overwhelming. So pen (okay, keyboard) in hand, I need to roll up my sleeves to get things moving along.

That being said, I learned a lot from the workshop and made new friends with whom I can talk about literature, writing, and gossip. And to nobody’s surprise, about 75% of the class (or at least, those who actually made it) turned out to be… of my persuasion. Let’s leave it at that.

Some things I learned:

  1. Take a break. Having finished my first draft, I’ll let it breathe for a few days and write other things. I’ve been writing a horror/fantasy novel and, although the characters are living animatedly in my mind, I need to leave them for a while so I’ll have a fresh perspective. I’ll be re-writing some short stories in the meantime.
  2. Focus and write. I’ve started to really discipline myself to write something everyday. True, life can be so busy, and it might never be a perfect routine, but having that sense of structure can help. Of course, it will vary from person to person – this works for me now, but it doesn’t necessarily work for others, as I’ve seen with some of my new mates. The important thing is, find your personal process… and stick to it.
  3. Try not to get stuck. We’ve all been there, including me: make that first chapter perfect! I kept on going back and going back to rewrite and perfect the first few chapters, until I realized I wasn’t moving forward. Once I got over it, I just decided to write and write. This helped me finish my first draft in less than two months. There will be time to revise afterwards, perhaps even with the help of a fresh set of eyes who are willing to be constructive first readers. No matter how good your idea is, if you only have one chapter, it will just be one chapter unless you get over it.
  4. Don’t aspire or claim to be the next “Filipino XXXX.” You’ll just set up expectations – possibly unrealistic – that can disappoint you. Instead, aspire to be yourself as a writer.
  5. Read, read, read. Keep on reading. Not that I didn’t need to learn this, per se, but it’s good to be validated as a reader as well.
  6. Experience the world. Everything can be material for your work, including those strangers chatting in the other table in the coffeeshop. Experience Quiapo. Mingle with the rich. Understand human nature. Stories should never just be about plot; characters should be those you can also root for.
  7. My gaydar still works at 99.5% accuracy levels.
  8. Lloyd’s gaydar is more powerful than mine.
  9. It is interesting to watch a debate between a Paleo guy and a vegetarian. Popcorn is a must when there is a battle of wits between Reg and Evan.
  10. Think of Russia not as a European country but as an Asian country. Then some of their politics will make sense. Props to Mike C for that perspective.

    Session 3: Dulcinea Dinner (Dennis Trillo off-screen)

  11. Older queens, those in their 70s or so, apparently have a fantasy: tapis, laba sa batis, “Andyan na ang mga Hapon!” Then it becomes a Seiko films ouvre.
  12. Sid Lucero likes to play video games. If only Momelia had asked for his number.
  13. Jen, Tal, and Lea are great names for three sisters. As Angus accidentally found out.
  14. I fear walking through the minds of Deo, Jovan, Patrick, and Ryan. Well, Patrick, do the Arnel Salgado route!
  15. 15K Pesos and $200. Kelangan nang pag-ipunan! Kung hindi man, pwede namang tumambay na lang sa Mr. Jones.
  16. PJ was impressed that I knew Starro the Conqueror. I didn’t think anyone would be impressed by that. Well, we need to go to Quiz Nights, then.
  17. Dry-variety Friskies are best for kittens.
  18. Crime-Fighting Call Center Agents is hilarious. Noel needs to mass-market this. I’ve only read snippets, but I need to see more.
  19. White ladies (or perhaps diwata) in Mt. Makiling dislike noisy radios. Next time, magpatulog ka kasi, Roni. Or write more porn. Este, erotica.
  20. I must read and watch Never Let Me Go.

    First pre-workshop meet-up: the late CBTL in GB3

  21. Apparently, I am not the only writer who has not read The Great Gatsby. I now feel less low on the food chain.
  22. I have confirmed that a certain politician is bisexual.
  23. Sam Milby has a twin brother.
  24. Jaime has unusual ambitions. Support!
  25. There are still people out there who have no idea about Talong, Pilita Corrales having a son with Eddie Gutierrez, and why the movie title Cristina Moran is funny.
  26. It would’ve been nice to have known Mike D, JMe, and Butch more. Well, Charlene, too – but I’ve known her since the late 90s so I know how her crazy mind works already. Well, nowhere near mine.
  27. Draft in Greenbelt 2 is a great place to drink beer.
  28. I now know what free-range beef is. I have no idea why legumes are supposed to be bad, but I still eat them heartily. Meanwhile, I did not know chocolates were a gift from aliens.
  29. Dennis Trillo looks even better in person.
  30. New friends are always just around the corner. #sepanx as one of them said. Well, the workshop is done, but we’re not. I’m sure we’ll all get to hang out regardless. It’s always nice to have people to discuss writing and these things with; always stimulate the mind (and the gossip brain centers). Besides, we still have a June deadline. Nothing better than fellow writers to support you over a cup of coffee, tea, and cake.

Some other blog article by Jessica Zafra about our workshop:

Worked All Weekend

Workshop Reading Lists

Workshop Snippets: Novels-In-Progress

Our first workshop series is over. Now finish your novels, and they’d better be brilliant.

Last Session Dinner: Mr. Jones (grabbed from Evan Tan)

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