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. 🙂

 

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!

Resolutions 2017

2017 will be the year of achievements and learning.

I am quitting my side job to focus on shooting. It will also give me time to look after my blog, and learn coding again.

Here are the resolutions :

  1. Win a medal.
  2. Earn money blogging.
  3. Code using SWIFT and also develop an end-to-end iOS app with cloud hosting and web services.
  4. Write a tech blog.
  5. Write a shooting blog.
  6. Write actively on thedamsel.in.
  7. Read 100 books.
  8. Write short stories and creative pieces.
  9. Complete April A-Z Challenge and February Ramblings.
  10. Eat right, exercise and get a fit body. Participate in at least one marathon.

I am going easy on me this year, and setting fairly achievable goals.

 

A photo posted by Ruchi Moré (@thedamselin) on

Most of my resolutions this year are related to writing. This is conscious, because I feel writing has taken a backseat since I left my day job in 2015. I had taken a break to write and I took up shooting instead. It has been close to 6 years that I have a blog and 4 years since I have this domain.

The initial settling in has been done. Now I need to go to the next level and start implementing SEO and monetisation. (For that I need to write too 😛 )

So here’s to the second innings of blogging!

2017 – The year of achievable goals!

 

Day 13 : Book Review – The Peshwa

 

Paperback: 356 pages Publisher: Westland Ltd. (5 January 2016) Language: English ISBN-10: 9385724215 ISBN-13: 978-9385724213
Paperback: 356 pages
Publisher: Westland Ltd. (5 January 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9385724215
ISBN-13: 978-9385724213

WHY I READ THE BOOK

I had applied for a review copy from Writersmelon (they send out a newsletter about books up for review) on finding the book interesting.

The cover is captivating. It lends a mystical air to the Peshwa’s character.

I had read a Gujrati book titled ‘Fadnavisi’ based on Nanasaheb Fadnavis’ life. The Peshwa made a brief appearance in it. I was always curious about him since then. Also, the fact that I have visited Mrityunjayeshwar Mandir (near which Mastani lived), Parvati (which is associated with the Peshwa) and Shaniwar Wada makes it near impossible to miss any literature which claims to narrate the life and times of the Peshwa. Add to all this, I did not quite like the version of the tale as shown in Bajirao-Mastani – so I wanted to know if there really is someone who can tell an authentic tale?

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THE BOOK

If you are a History fan, like the Marathi culture or want to know more about it, and above all else – like to hear a story told like the ones you heard in childhood, this book is for you.

THE BOOK

The book is fast-paced and unputdownable because of the beauty of Ram Sivasankaran‘s language. Marathi warriors speaking chaste English is hard to adapt to at first, but after a few pages, the language barrier no longer applies. It helps if you have read Amish’s books though they are of different genres. I may go as far as saying that that Ram Sivasankaran‘s language surpasses the linguistic quality of the narrative in the Shiva Trilogy by huge margins, because even though he uses English, he keeps the voice archaic and graceful enough to suit the time frame, whereas Amish goes entirely colloquial in his books. (I have no idea why I am comparing the two – apples and oranges. I think it is because I keep on seeing the pinned tweet on Ram Sivasankaran’s Twitter timeline where Amish endorses The Peshwa.)

THE PLOT

It is very difficult to write an oft told story such that it will hold the interest of readers who already know the story as well as those who are new to it. The Author has managed to pull that off by narrating the present day (1800s) events along with flashbacks from the 1700s.

The plot is about how Bajirao I established himself as a warrior Peshwa. His coming of age, his romantic side, and initiation into the office of Peshwa. This book sets the tone for the sequel, which I think is named The Princess of Bundelkhand.

I would not spoil the start and the end for you. So I just say that the start is hair raising, even though you might have heard of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj’s valour time and again.

THE CHARACTERS

*spoiler alert*

Again, in a true historical account, it can be difficult to select characters to expand. The author manages to pick a handful and elaborate only the key influencers in the events.

The Chhatrapati

As we all know Chhatrapati Shahu was a benevolent King, more interested in the upliftment and education of his citizens than waging a territorial war against the Mughals. Ram Sivasankaran’s Chhatrapati comes across as more affable than he might be in real life. However, this brings about the fact that the Confederacy was primarily governed from the seat of the Peshwa rather than the throne of the Chhatrapati, subtly to the front.

The Mughal Emperor

Mentioned only in passing, Ram Sivasankaran succeeds in etching the Mughal Emperor Farookhsiyar’s character – which is in stark contrast to that of the Chhatrapati. Though both have been rendered titular, the Chhatrapati inspires respect for the throne of the Confederacy while the Mughal Emperor denotes instability in the Kingdom.

The Nizam

I like the fact that Ram Sivasankaran gives a humane side to the Nizam, who is otherwise known only for his cunning and ruthlessness. For students who have paid attention to their history classes, the real name of the Nizam will  bring back memories from the syllabus. The Nizam, if I were to speak the language of literature, is a perfect foil for our hero, The Peshwa. His character drills one point deep – loyalty, strength, justness are the qualities of an ideal citizen. A man can be a hero or an anti-hero depending on the side you are viewing the events from. For a Mughal citizen, the Nizam is a hero and a saviour. For the Maratha Confederacy, he is a villain and devil incarnate.

Of course, The Peshwa

The Peshwa’s character has been given a say from his teen years. This lets the reader know how the great Bajirao was conditioned to be a warrior and an able heir to his father’s seat. The reader can see directly into his vulnerability when he is thrown unprepared into an early succession and a full blown battle. Ram Sivasankaran succeeds in giving a likeable hero who matures from a self-doubting young man to a seasoned warrior.

Kashi Bai

Although Ranveer Singh creeped in as The Peshwa, he didn’t as much as Priyanka Chopra did as Kashi Bai, when I was reading the book. The Author has clearly mentioned that he had finished the draft well before the movie came out, but it is difficult to let go of its influence while reading the book. So Kashi for me, was a young Priyanka Chopra (she’s done the role so convincingly in the movie). As far as the narration goes, it is difficult to place her psyche – is she childish? is she well-learned and mature? She seems to show both traits as she dotes on her Rao and defends him vocally in the Royal Court. Well, teenage is such an age, isn’t it?

The Peshwa’s father

Bajirao inherits his statesmanship from his father. The Peshwa, when the book starts, is Balaji Rao, whom Bajirao succeeds. It is inevitable that the biggest influence in Bajirao’s life will be shown larger than life. It is fascinating to read anecdotes about his diplomacy and his conduct with his arch rival (The Nizam, who wasn’t the Nizam yet).

The Confederate Senapati

A traitor who was once a loyal soldier. With Dabhade’s character, the author proves that History can be written as the people in power at that time want it to be written. The Peshwa could very well have made an example of how a traitor can corrupt a whole batch of the army, but he chose to honour his previous valour. A one-off incidence, however grave, could not wipe off the years of selfless service that Dabhade spent with the Confederacy. Loved the whole track!

The Spies

With the Mughals, it was the Order of the Scorpians and with the Marathas, it was well-trained soldiers who doubled up as spies. When this sub-track, which is mentioned more in the offing than as a part of the story, becomes the main track, it hits you – wham! So this is what the author has been doing with the spy track and the flashbacks?! And this has been done so well, in a story already known, that it leaves you wondering – was this part fiction or it really happened?

*spoiler over*

WHAT I LIKED

  1. The oscillation between the flashbacks and the present day.
  2. The book picks an event – the first battle in Bajirao’s life and makes it come alive.
  3. Even a major character like Nanasaheb Fadnavis has been sidelined where it was not needed. This makes the story tightly told.
  4. The pace of the book does not slack for a minute, even with the romantic interludes and the heart-to-heart conversations.
  5. A historical story like this holds interest till the last page. Who would have thought?
  6. The fact that this book is in English, and relies less on local jargon, would make this interesting for readers all over India and even International English readers.

WHAT I DID NOT LIKE

  1. The extra chapter at the end is too fairy-taleish.
    *SPOILER ALERT*
  2. The romance seems too far-fetched to believe. I doubt Kashi Bai’s father and Balaji Rao would be this lenient.
  3. Kashi Bai talking to herself is irritating.
  4. According to me, in royal families, the rooms for the husband and the wife would be different. There would be no ‘their’ chamber.  This seems a factual error. I am not sure…
  5. I thought the emotional scenes too over done. Especially those with the Chhatrapati. Would the Chhatrapati embrace his mother and the Peshwa at once? Never! Would it be acceptable for Kashi Bai to drop a Puja thali to embrace Bajirao? The news would spread like wild-fire! It would be considered a dreadful omen and Kashi Bai would be held responsible for being careless.
    *SPOILER ALERT*

IN A NUTSHELL

I was hoping for a good read and mainly to compare versions with the movie Bajirao Mastani. But this was a complete surprise. The language, the flow and the characters take you into their era and you wake up into reality only when you finish the book.

You can buy the paperback from Amazon or read it for free on Kindle Unlimited.

Reviewer’s rating   3.5/5

Note : I was sent a review copy by Writersmelon. The views are completely unbiased. I would have criticised the book, or not posted a review if I had felt otherwise. I genuinely liked it and I think you would too. Especially tweens.

NaBloPoMo November 2016

 

100 books in 2016 – Reading challenge

K M Weiland is an author whom I follow since 2010. She has started a Goodreads Reading Challenge for reading 100 books in 2016, with a draw for few lucky winners. Winning aside, I am keen on taking up this challenge because 2016 has been declared as The year of Reading in the UAE.

All signs are telling me to make the most of it.

Here’s the break down of how I plan to read :

meta-chart

The first 10 books without a specific deadline are :

1. STALEMATE by Icchokas Meras (1963, English Edition 2005)
2. MASTER PRIM by James Whitfield Ellison (1968)
3. LOS VORACES, 2019: A Chess Novel by Andy Soltis (McFarland, 2003)
4. THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT: A NOVEL, by Walter Tevis (Vintage, 2003)
5. THE ROYAL GAME (A Novella, the original German title was: Schachnovelle) by Stefan Zweig (1942)
6. Birth of the Chess Queen: A History by Yalom, Marilyn
7. Jaws by Peter Benchley
8. To the lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
9. Dear Theo by Vincent Van Gogh
10. Gone girl by Gillian Flynn

Wish me luck and keep a tab on Goodreads!