Catching up

Hi ya folks!

It was my blog’s birthday on 4th September. The day I migrated to self-hosted domain. 5 years ago.

Kalamkaari might think of me as a very negligent owner. To that, I’d say – you’re still better off than thedamsel.in 😛 Two years, and it ain’t much functional.

Anyhoo, belated Happy Birthday! 

My birthday is approaching too. In the first week of October. (I’ll post around that day, yes dear blog. Don’t make that face.)

Right now I am on a ‘training vacation’ at Mom’s. I’ve coined the term. It means training at your regular pace at a place where you’re the most at ease. It gives you time to think, plan, and act on the plans. (Aeeee Kalamkaari, I’m talking about shooting. Not blogging. Don’t look at me as if I am slacking.)

My physical training Coach has told me to run regularly to improve mental toughness. The idea being – 15-20 mins of alternate day slow running builds in you a strength to complete a task you’ve undertaken. I am doing that, and it is working fairly well for me on the shooting front.

I am thinking of an experiment. To implement the same thing on the blogging front. Slow writing, gibberish writing, deliberate writing for 20 mins to build a blogging rhythm. I think that would go a long way in building my mental toughness some more. (And pleasing the rightfully sulking Kalamkaari too.)

My 20 mins are up for today. Good to have caught up. See you soon!

Img Source : Vitacentre.org

5 things that can make your debut book a bestseller!

Welcome, dear first-time authors!

In this post, you’ll find the ingredients that make your soup the most sought after at the annual readers’ dinner party (ARDP); rather than land you in a soup through the dismal sales records.

Photo credits : Teleread.com

What are my credentials, you ask? Well, I am one of your targeted Indian readers, who has been starved for a good Indian soup since some decades.

If you go to any best-selling author (I’ve been to discussion panel sessions featuring the stars of Indian fiction – Amish, Ravi Subramanian), they’ll tell you that the topmost ‘thing’ that can make your book a bestseller is – marketing. Author Ashwin Sanghi swears that he has stormed ahead of many a better writers than him because of his clever marketing tactics.

While I agree with this to a certain extent, I also feel that the soup will not ‘sell’ unless it has some underlying unique OR popular taste that the feasters at the ARDP like. Sooner or later, the readers will discover that the promise of quality is a hoax, and most of them will not finish the soup. If they’ve already finished it, they won’t take the soup offered by you at the next ARDP.

So, hurry up and pick these ingredients off the proverbial book writing shelf:

  1. Story : Make the book about your story, not about your linguistic skills.See, the fact that you have undertaken the herculean task of setting out to write a book screams from the rooftops that you have a flair for expressing yourself through your writing. It also establishes that you are relatively well-versed with the rules of grammar and have a vast vocabulary.

    Because, other people who don’t have these qualities would get cold feet at the prospect of writing down what they envision in a story, biography, or auto-biography. They’d get someone else to do the ‘dirty work’ of putting thoughts on paper.

    So, you don’t have to prove your linguistic proficiency to anyone. It is a given, since you’re writing the book yourself. Desist from dragging the narrative just to show off how well you can play with words.

    The language in your book should be according to :

    1.  The time frame and the location in which it the story is set.
    2. The social status and the educational level of your characters.

      This will help you in establishing authenticity – the second ingredient.

  2. Authenticity : Believe in your story. Only then will your readers buy it.

    Let your story be as outlandish as possible. Do everything in your capacity to narrate it in a matter of fact tone.

    If you have read any of Asimov’s books, you’ll see how unassumingly he goes on setting up the Universe that is statistically heading towards annihilation. The reader has no choice but to accept what the author states to be the ‘norm’ in his world.Even if the story is based in the real world, there can be some character traits, some scenes that won’t be easily digested by the ARDP, unless the author writes them with conviction that stems from – 1) Extensive Research and 2) Huge Self-confidence.

    Picture :

    “Masakali landed swiftly on the porch. His hind legs hit the ground first.

    Mohan retrieved the letter that was carefully wedged between Masakali’s front paws, which were folded in a classic Namaste position all through his arduous flight from Mumbai to Pune.

    Masakali gave a grunt of relief and dutifully licked his Master’s cheek. In return, Mohan affectionately booped his nose, which signalled that he is dismissed.

    He was dying to see his wife, Deena. He sprinted towards the mud pool on the far side of the garden. There she was, lying contentedly in the soft gooey mud. And nuzzling against her, were four pink babies! So they had hatched!

    Masakali was overwhelmed with joy. He lost no time in hurtling his rotund self in the mud pool and embracing his family in a strong pig-hug. This was a moment of celebration. After all, these piglets would grow up into fine flyers and help him realise his dream of keeping the ‘Fastest Messenger’ title in the family.”

    Now tell me, are you in the mood to ‘tell me that pigs don’t fly’ or ‘read more about the Fastest Messenger competition’?

  3. Visualisation : Live in the world in which your story takes place.

    Continuing from above, to create an authentic narrative, you have to be able to see the setting and the characters as if you’re living with them as one of their own or as an observer.What makes Harry Potter a success? Is it only J K Rowling’s lucid writing, or the depth of her characters, or the intriguing plot? It is mainly because in her writing, the reader is shown a world that is replete with details about its physical appearance – be it the sorting hat,the Hogwarts hall, the magic wands, or anything – alive or inanimate.

    Ironically, writing fantasy with a believable setting is relatively easier than writing fiction in the real world – where you have to describe the character’s house (say set near The Louvre, Paris). Apart from their abode, the characters have to have physical attributes and dresses that can be visualized by the reader. All this information should be conveyed subtly, rather than pointing it out in an obvious sentence.

    Picture :

    “Rani was a tall girl. All her cousins were shorter than her. So they made her get the cookies, which her mother hid on the top shelf in the kitchen.”

    And…

    “Rani could reach the top shelf of the kitchen cupboards, without as much as standing on her toes. Her cousins had often tried to jump on the kitchen platform to get to them, but they were always discovered and given the scolding of their lifetime as they hit their heads or disturbed the electronic appliances with their feet while trying to stand up from their crouched positions. The decision was unanimous – Rani would get the cookies. After all, her mother had hid them.”

  4. Rendering : Find your own chapter presentation style.Dan Brown alternates between two narratives – one, the protagonist’s and one, the antagonist’s. I have read some authors who make each characters narrate a chapter, to make the readers see their point of view. There are some who prefer the traditional third person narrative.

    Again the flow depends from author to author, book to book – flashbacks, cliffhangers, etc. are the chapter styles that I am accustomed to. Now, what works for a crime thriller won’t necessarily work or not work for a romance. Eh, all I am trying to say is – instead of aping a chapter style that has become popular of recent – here I go back to Dan Brown’s alternating narratives – try picturing a movie that is based on your book.

    How would the screenplay pan out? Try to base the chapters in that sequence, and that style.Is your chapter descriptive? Does it have more dialogues? Does it end abruptly? Do not think about all this. Avoid cliches like – leave a hook and make the reader feel incomplete after one chapter. Do it, but don’t do it consciously. When you’re writing the chapters as if they’re happening on reel, you’ll end up writing the most enticing book ever.

    It’s another matter that very few writers are happy with their book’s movie adaptations. The movie reference here is in context with point 3 where the reader should be able to visualise what’s happening – and that is only possible if the chapter style and flow are complementing the author’s narration.

  5. Revise : Fine tune your work for the finale.

    It is a known fact that most writers are big time procrastinators and don’t like revisions.It’s not because they’re lazy. It’s because they lack the motivation of going about a task that is less creatively fulfilling than creating the story and the characters in the first place.

    You can make the revision interesting by reading alternately as a diner of the ARDP and the chef who made the soup. Do you like the primary flavor of the soup? Can you find subtle underlying flavors? Yes, pat yourself on the back, and finish the garnishing. No, do the required changes/additions and then garnish it.

    Even I’ll revise this blog, and then post it. 🙂

 

IWSG : January Question

This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. My awesome co-hosts today are Eva @ Lillicasplace, Crystal Collier, Sheena-kay Graham, Chemist Ken, LG Keltner, and Heather Gardner!

IWSG

January Question : What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

I have grown up reading old classics by Jule Verne, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, R.L.Stevenson, Charles Dickens – to name a few. It tried my patience to get ‘well into’ the book as the descriptions of the surroundings went on and on in the first few pages. If it was not about the type of scenery or the grandeur of the mansion that the characters lived in, it was about the typical habits of the character in question. It was as if there was nothing happening in the book except when you were into the 2nd or the 3rd chapter. If you were real unlucky, the book would pick up pace well after the first half.

This was my feeling when I was a teen. As I got accustomed to this style of writing and grew in years, I began to appreciate knowing where my characters are. The descriptive surroundings lent credence to the traits that the character got as a result of inhabiting them at that point of time/in the past.

Recently I finished reading Jane Austen and loved her descriptions of the manors and houses that her characters lived in, and the ball rooms they visited.

I have attended several writing workshops, and read several ‘How to write a successful novel’ articles which say that the ‘First sentence matters’. It should never be about the time of the day or about the surroundings. I interpret that as : The first sentence should not be something that a regular someone would say while narrating a story (like, ‘Once upon a time…). It should be striking; something that a reporter would say to catch your attention in a fraction of a second, and stop you in your tracks when you are surfing channels on the TV.

Mumbo-jumbo, I say. I call the bluff! How many first sentences (of the books you have read) do you remember? I just remember the last sentence of Gone with the Wind – ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!’

And that exactly sums up my feeling about this writing rule. Never start your novel with a sentence describing the time of the day or the surroundings. If your writing is honest, your reader will have patience to turn the next 2-3 pages and see if your story entices him further. If not, well, too bad! I am not writing a novel to please my readers, I am writing to tell a story I want to tell. I won’t tell it by adhering to some imaginary writing rules which claim to make your book an overnight bestseller.

Other than grammar rules and maintaining a decent sense of chronology, I don’t have much respect for writing rules at all. Writing is an art, you can establish vague pointers, but you cannot have people writing out of a rule book. Tch!

I wish I had never heard the never begin your story with description rule.

Insecure Writers Support Group : December Question

 

This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. My awesome co-hosts today are Jennifer Hawes, Jen Chandler, Nick Wilford,Juneta Key, JH Moncrieff, Diane Burton, and MJ Fifield!

December Question: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

I am writing since I was in school. I have written a full 30-50,000 word children’s novel in the 8th grade. When I used to talk about becoming a writer, my Dad used to get very apprehensive. He appreciates my writing skills, but has two arguments – 1) I don’t write exceptionally well (read – I drag my narration OR I am too artsy – whatever it means) 2) He thought me turning a writer would mean I would not care about my finances and become the typical jhola-khadi stereotype most Indians thought (10 years ago) writers were.

For some reason, I have not bloomed as a full-fledged writer yet. I have set out to write a novel since 2010 and never completed any of the 3 plots I had in mind.

This question gives me a chance to structure my goals and the efforts towards reaching them.

In the next 5 years,

  1. I see myself as a regular short story, flash fiction and poetry writer.
  2. I would have written 1 non-fiction book.
  3. I would have written 1 80000 word fiction book, published by a reputed publishing house.
  4. Writing would fetch me a decent income, despite the popular opinion that writing doesn’t fetch significant money.
  5. I would have reached an efficiency level where writing daily at a fixed time would be an inseparable part of my routine.

Humble, achievable goals; in tandem with my overall goals for 2017.

How would you answer this question? Would love to hear!

Decoding writer’s block

When people ask me why don’t they see me blog these days, how is my novel coming along, how’s writing in general, sometimes I say it has taken a backseat and at other times – I have a writer’s block. In my context, writer’s block is not applicable at all, because, truth to be said – I don’t try to write these days.

Last year, when I left my day job, I had elaborate writing plans.

Why don’t I write and blame it on writer’s block :

  1. I keep avoiding writing because of procrastination.
  2. I do not have a writing time. I am thinking of starting regular writing in the morning hours.
  3. I set very high standards for myself. The result is, I keep churning more ordinary stuff. Though someone has rightly said, there is more extraordinary in the ordinary than the one trying to appear extraordinary. That someone is me. At least I agree with me on something.
  4. The more I read, the more I am convinced that I will never write an authentic draft.
  5. I don’t have a peer writer’s circle, so to speak. It is true that I follow wonderful bloggers who happen to be amazing writers, but I do not seek active feedback from them. Why? Because I DO NOT WRITE!
  6. I should stop thinking of writing as a task and write for the love of the written word.

I leave you with these incomplete thoughts…