Questions and Answers
Q: Why did you choose to publish 4 books at once, instead of one at a time?
A: Because I feel it takes four books to present the big picture of the moral philosophy I want. I thought of publishing the books individually at first. However, although the first book has closure, it leaves many unanswered questions which are resolved in the following three books. I felt that if I published book one alone, it would not satisfy.
Q: How long did you take to edit the whole of volume 1?
A: It took me about 6 to 8 weeks to come up with the entire draft of books 1 to 4. If it matters, it took me about one year to draft all 2 million words of the entire novel series’ unedited script. The volumes beyond the first are scripts and not full-fledged manuscripts as it is pretty barebones. However, editing was another issue, taking over 20 months. The content editing, copy-editing, and proofreading were all done by me. I felt it was too expensive to hire a professional editor as it would take about SGD 40000, which is insane. I did so with the help of ProWritingAid and Grammarly. Then, I took many online courses on the rubrics of good writing and editing and applied them.
Q: What is your justification for choosing books 1 to 4 to develop setting, character, theme, and plot, respectively?
A: Like any good novel series, it is important to set the foundational pillars first. That is why the first book emphasizes so much on setting and background. Without such, you would not have the precedence for the rest of the novel series. Books 2 and 3 were chosen for character and theme, as I felt, being in the middle, they should be the novel's main focus. This is such as its goal is to impart philosophical insights and lessons. Book 4 ends on a more traditional note, being plot-focused for closure, completeness, and safety. Its goal is to resolve many of the open-ended parts left behind in book 1.
Q: What were the worst issues you had to face during content editing?
(See the FAQ in the book for the spoiler and full version of this answer)
A: Content editing was a real pain in the ass. Originally, my plot was devoid of philosophy, character development, or originality. Then to breathe life into it, I added in Thus Spake Oneness and Ei’lara. However, the novel became too theme-based; the characters were not doing much at all. Thus, to ensure that they had good character development, I decided to cover their background and give in-depth psychological coverage of their inner states. However, that was not enough. They were just knowing and not acting. So I had them carry out meaningful choices and show progressive evolution. One problem I faced was that many characters were not given enough weaknesses.
There were also cases of bad writing like deus ex machina, where an event would happen with no precedence. Thankfully, I have fixed these blatant issues already.
The main issue I faced in content editing was that I had to interweave the philosophy of Thus Spake Oneness and Ei’lara coherently. It should not be fully tutelary. I had to have the characters procure them, reflect on them, and then learn to apply their lessons in real situations. Next, the resolution scenes needed relevance and synthesis.
While editing, I faced the problem of disorganization. Many chapters did not flow. Thus, I re-organized them thematically and pruned a lot of redundant chapters and paragraphs.
Lastly, I had to do plenty of research by reading hundreds of novels (commercial, classic, and literary) to compare my works to theirs. This included books for the mass audience and many Nobel prize-winning books. I could not find many people to give me feedback, thus with little of what I had, I needed to make these comparisons. Only by doing so could I know how to meet or exceed certain standards.
I also did much research online and from the library to find out how to write and how not to write.
Q: How about copy-editing and proof-reading?
A: Well, thanks to ProWritingAid and a premium Grammarly subscription, proofreading was a breeze as it did everything for me. It also plagiarism-checked everything. Copy-editing, however, needed the human element — it could only do half of the work.
The main issue was that my initial prose had too long sentences and paragraphs. They also used too many adjectives and overly-thick descriptions. I was worried about the vocabulary being too dense. The original readability grade was about 10.5, with a readability ease of 57. Now it is 5.8 and 74 respectively. Thus, that was originally far too inaccessible. Thus, I spent many months toning down the vocabulary, excessive metaphors, shortened sentences and removed redundant descriptions. It was not to repeat the mistakes in the novel “The Eye of Argon.” However, I also had to find a balance — if I toned it down too much, it would be ‘dumbing down.’ Thus, after much editing, I felt I had achieved a readability level that is accessible yet substantial enough. If it is toned down any further, it will lose any of its vital contents. Then I also had to cut down on passive word usage a lot.
The illustration was a pain as I had to illustrate everything, except for the book’s front and back covers.
I do not presume my works to be flawless. I’ve done my best in many months of editing and feel I have done enough. I also did my best to ensure that things are always happening despite the vivid descriptions and psychological reflection scenes. The goal is to ensure flow and interest. The pacing had to be proper, with appropriate alternating scenes for introspection and action. They had to come together in a balanced manner while avoiding inadequacies or excesses.
Next, I had to ensure that my prose is clear enough. Thanks a lot to Grammarly, I was able to streamline my sentences very significantly. The last time I checked, if I am not wrong, Readabler gave my entire novel a “grade A” readability rating. That was before even more significant editing was set in, so it should be even better now. Using ProWritingAid, I pruned out even more redundancies, and now the novels rate very highly on all the software’s writing indicators.
Many problems which I faced, now resolved are: over-description, over-showing, over-elaboration, over-explanation, over-introspection, long dialogues, mono-tones, improper thought and dialogue tags, unusual non-said and non-ask dialogue tags, over-reporting, being either too direct or implicit, over-telling, throat-clearing, info-dumping, lack of balance and flow, redundancies, purple prose, poor starting chapters, inconsistencies, insufficient sentence variety, punctuation issues, formatting errors, structural issues in some arcs, pacing problems, lack of focus and relevance in some parts, excessive formality, too many technicalities, being too theoretical and abstract, over-revealing, over-announcing, lack of character and voice, lack of personality differentiation, jarring battles, too much causal attribution, “feeding” the readers too much, etc. This is not an exhaustive list.
Lastly, I faced a lot of problems regarding the content for Thus Spake Oneness and the deciphering of Ei’lara. Originally, they were way too technical and intellectual. Some parts were also too long. To ensure that my works are more accessible, I pruned them by between 20 to 50%. I also noticed that some internal dialogs were way too over-dramatizing or excessive. Thus, many were pruned.
Since it is such a long work, a single person cannot possibly see to perfection without any help from others. I’ve done my best — that’s all I can say.
Q: What was the psychological cost of creating this novel series?
A: Thanks to 5 to 6 years of non-stop writing, I have, unfortunately, developed depression as of Jan 2021 and am seeing treatment. I most likely have a form of Bipolar III called Cyclothymia. It’s unfortunate, but towards the end and as of writing this Q&A, I feel sad and unmotivated on most days and sometimes just feel horrific inside. I’m also lonely and sad due to the extreme solitude posed by writing, with little support or help from others.
Because of its psychological toll, it has negatively impacted my social interactions, sometimes due to occasional bad moods and irritability.
[15 Feb 2022 Update: After much investigation, it turned out that the depression and insomnia I constantly face arose due to poor nutrition, as a result of a 2-year-long Atkins diet. I have now moved to more fruits, milk, and vegetables due to severe multivitamin and mineral deficiency, and things have gotten a lot better. I sleep far more soundly now, and feel a lot better, with many former symptoms diminishing vastly.]
Q: Did you reduce the image quality of some of your illustrations in this volume?
A: Yes, because the compiled file is too large. This led to formatting and over-bloating issues during conversion to PDF and Kindle. Every megabyte which I upload also charges me 15 US cents per book. At close to 20 MB, you can do the math – I still need to make a living since I quit my teaching post at university! Unfortunately, there was no bypass, even after using a compression software.
Q: You are a Tetris expert?
A: Some top global players and experts regard me very, very highly. I may not be the fastest, but many consider me as being one of the most efficient, knowledgeable, and most skilled in some areas, like Back-to-backs, T-spins, piece awareness, setups, planning ten moves ahead immediately, and Downstack Combos. However, I consider myself a casual player. I would never compete in any tournament or join any major or large Tetris community. My Tetris website is one of the most exhaustive Tetris guides in the world. Not revealing here - I need privacy!
Some questions and answers are only in the book because of spoilers.