On Writing

September 6, 2008

Here’s a fact that you probably didn’t know yet: AVYW is not my first book. My first book was a soaring 389 pages, single-spaced, written entirely in English, about music, which took me about four years to finish. There are probably only two people who have seen and read it: my best friends Firman and Wida. It was what Wida said, though, that strikes me the most: “You know, this is good. This is really good. But you are probably the only one who understands everything in it.” And I was like: “Meaning?” She then explained that while I wrote so vividly about the theme, I didn’t actually gave the readers enough explanation about the tiny little details as ninety percent of the book is dialogues between the characters. I thought that just by reading the repertoires and the comebacks, it’s enough for the readers to dive into the story, experiencing the story first hand as if they’re actually in the middle of those conversations. But instead, it was like a non-jazz fan listening to Coltrane’s Giant Steps and blurting: “What the hell?”

When Dean and I talked about publishing my book, the manuscript that I was gonna hand him was this first book. But since from the marketing point of view it’s rather impossible to publish in English, I had to come up with something that is in Indonesian. Now you would think that the most logical thing for me to do would be to translate the first book into Indonesian, which I hate. Maybe it’s just me, but I personally believe that translating a book is like butchering the essence of the writing. Because when a writer writes, every single word that he or she put down on paper, every single comma and period, is there as the soul of the book. That’s why I think you should always read a book in the original language that it was written, to truly capture the chemistry of words, to read it the way it was meant to be. If it should be translated, it’s probably best that the writer itself who does it, or at least, be involved in the translating process.

So instead of translating the first book, I decided to write a new book altogether. Here’s another thing that you also probably didn’t know yet: I don’t do outlines, at all. What I do is just take an idea and get on with it. Every time I start to write a page, I don’t know what’s gonna be on the next page and the next page. There’s just a certain excitement when I don’t know how the story is going to evolve. Which is why, when an idea hit me in so detail including the ending, I decided not to go through with it (I had three or four book concepts that I threw away because of this). Where’s the fun of going into a tunnel when you already know what awaits you at the end of the line?

The then-new book, AVYW, was done in nearly a month, and then another three or four months of editing slash translating (the original manuscript was written half in English as I somehow feel more comfortable in pouring my ideas in English instead of in Indonesian. Hell, I even use English most of the time when I present to my V.P.s at work). AVYW was written in a really egocentric way: no research, no market evaluation, no pre-existing reviews to build the story from.

Divortiare, however, is a whole other process. Since AVYW hits the market, I spent many hours googling and reading the reviews, either written by readers – like you – or the media. Then of course, listening to my own friends’ take on the story. Call it a market evaluation research with the only contact point that matters: the ones who read it. Alhamdulillah, for me, AVYW is a great success. I’m just happy that people are even buying the book, never would have I imagined that it’s already in its third reprints as we speak. When I got the idea for Divortiare and started scribbling on the first page, I owe it at least to myself to make it better than my previous book. It has to show my growth as a writer.

John Mayer – I love this guy – said that he’s continuously trying to find the middle ground between the phrase “million units” and “artistic integrity”. It’s about writing about something that I want and believe in, and somehow gets accepted by the market at the same time. It’s about saying what I want to say and still getting the messages across to the readers as if I’m communicating personally with each one of them.

If you ask me, Divortiare is a lot harder to write than AVYW, it took me four months to finish with a whole month dedicated to writing the last chapter only (27 days of thinking and 3 days of actually writing it). People who know me on a personal basis know that I get bored easily, so once I start to think more than 10 pages ahead, it just became unchallenging, so I just let it sit for a week or so to shift the whole direction of the story.

The number one thing that I was trying to achieve with Divortiare is conversing with you, the readers. You know, it’s like we’re sitting together sipping coffee one evening whilst watching the tail lights of cars go by from the coffee shop window, and me telling you the story. I would go way over my head as to assume that I’ve achieved it, you’re the only who knows whether it works that way or not. Which is why I love reading your reviews, your take on the simple question of “what is your favorite part of the story.” It helps me to understand which part that you feel I’m actually conversing instead of shouting.

Ever heard of the concept of autobiographical response? Every person is different, and it’s really fascinating for me to read as many as ten or twelfth different take on one scene or even a sentence. It’s fascinating for me to see how you don’t just read, but also reflect. A writer’s greatest achievement is not the bulging royalty payments – even though I’m not complaining – but it’s the readers, reflecting each word and each sentence to their own autobiographical response.

I write not to teach you things, not to preach, not even to vindicate myself. I write so I can learn from myself, from you. I write so I can surprise myself when I came up with a sentence that hits so close to the truth than I had intended it to be.

I write to converse. And I hope we will always have something to talk about.

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20 Responses to “On Writing”

  1. ryane Says:

    love your books, mbak ika..
    keep a good write yahh hehehe

  2. sariiffa Says:

    cant wait for your next book mbak Ika. 🙂

  3. dewi Says:

    Hi, i’m dewi. I’ve read both of ur book. And i like ur divortiare. A LOT. believe it or not, i read it every night. I just start reading at any page when i open the book, and i think i start to memorize it too, hehe..
    Ur writing is very much better than AVYW, and the story is much more interesting, maybe because i just compare to my personal life,hehe.
    Keep up the nice work&just write the next soon!

  4. Ika Natassa Says:

    ryane, sariffa, dewi: thanks supportnya ya, doain aja smoga buku 3 cepat kelar

  5. katrin Says:

    Hi, Ika!
    can’t wait for your 3rd book!.
    Oiya, congrats ya, di goodreads, peringkatnya naik.
    Divortiare muncul juga di Cleo September.
    Never give up ya…

  6. Ika Natassa Says:

    hi katrin, wah gw malah blon tau tuh yg cleo (magazines are stacking up at my desk tp ga pernah sempet baca hehehe), thanks info nya ya.

  7. fie Says:

    hi ika!!

    divortiare elo tuh gw bgt!!
    (klo aja gw jadi married ma “him”, but thanks god i did’nt! hehe..cz klo iya,tuh buku udah brasa jadi biografinya gw kalee..hehe)
    anyway..
    cant wait to read ur next book!!
    🙂

  8. Just Nisa Says:

    hm, what’s great from you and your book is the way you’re trying to inspire people (especially me!).
    I never really like a book. Yes, I read books, but I haven’t got any of them that could inspire me as much as you did.

    It’s something which is indescribable! I have no perfect words to describe how I love every main characters, every stories, and every ideas that you put in your books.

    Your books give me some insights on how career women will run their life. It’s very interesting since I have no idea about that at all. Call me dumb!

    Your books are the window that show me an great scene of life. A life which is probably not goin’ to be mine, but it’s actually something that can be chosen.

    But one thing for sure, your book is like a caffeine. I’m dying to taste it over and over again. So, just like the others, I cant wait to read your next book=)

    Thank you for reading. I’m trying to learn to write in my limitation choices of English vocabulary, hopefully you can understand=)

    Success for you, Mba ika=)
    Super Thanks!

  9. Ika Natassa Says:

    fie: can’t wait for you all to buy my next book hehehehe
    nisa: wah senengnya kalo elo berpikir begitu, thanks support nya ya

  10. alke Says:

    “Because when a writer writes, every single word that he or she put down on paper, every single comma and period, is there as the soul of the book”

    I really agree with it.. As i said,, I want you to write the 3rd book in English (if u don’t mind) ^_^

    Can’t wait..


  11. hi ika…

    i just read yr AVYW.. a bit late ya ka… one single word ” BAGOEZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ “.. keep up the good work !

  12. Ika Natassa Says:

    alke: hahaha maybe i should, the idea is not there yet though
    cartoon lover: thanks ya! ps: gw dulu pencinta kartun captain planet hehehe

  13. sariiffa Says:

    how about write another book totally out of the bankers life?
    -sari-

  14. Ika Natassa Says:

    sariffa: you might be surprised of the 3rd book i’m currently writing 😉

  15. Just Nisa Says:

    I Love banker’s life=)hehehe
    So, okeh aja kalau

  16. Just Nisa Says:

    I Love banker’s life=)hehehe.

  17. tess Says:

    hey there!
    I’ve read both of your books and they’re simply awesome! 🙂
    u’re definitely one of my favorite Indonesian authors, Ka.
    ga sabar nunggu buku ke3 nyaa.

  18. missglasses Says:

    hei I’m reading Divortiare now. really like it. bahasanya asik banget. ooh, pantesan banyak inggrisnya. ternyata aslinya hampir semuanya pake bhs inggris. aaaaa, you have inspired me for using English more often! 🙂

  19. Ika Natassa Says:

    nisa: wait til you hear the bad parts hehehe
    tess and missglasses: thanks support-nya ya

  20. weedia Says:

    mba ika..keren2 novelnya..
    aku tuh bego bgt dlm b.inggris..
    tapi setelah baca novel2 mba,,aku jadi bisa belajar b.inggris,,hehe..

    ditunggu buku selanjutnyaaaa…


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