Friday, July 22, 2016

Trying to Avoid Falling into the Trap

Last week I read a thriller by my favourite author. After I read it, I had just one thought running through my mind: I wish I hadn’t wasted time reading it. I felt cheated and disappointed. I’ve read all the books by that author and this book was a cut, copy and post job: the plot was a rehash of another book, the characters had been pulled out from all her other books and the storyline plodded through an expectable route with nothing new to offer.

I wondered why that veteran writer actually wrote this book. This book was an exact clone of her previous books. Word for word. I passed the book to my sister-in-law and she (though she isn’t a writer) said the same thing. Infact she went as far as telling me that she is skipping pages to come to the end.

The worst mistake we writers make is Falling Into The Trap. We can fall into this writing trap due to several reasons; overuse of certain types of clichés and stereotypes, use of a similar style of narrative in every story we write, even though the books aren’t a part of a series, use of similar settings, use of similar protagonists, using predictable sub-plots and plot twists.

I attribute this to the fact that once the writers have discovered a successful formula, they want to milk it for all its worth. Perhaps they endorse the view why mess with something that has worked well. But they forget that what readers adored once, may not find takers again.

Many times I have a strong feeling of Déjà vu when I read the next set of books written by few writers. I feel I have met the characters before. Even the setting has no novelty, it’s the same one as the last book written by the author. The problem faced by the main character and the way the conflict has been resolved is something I had guessed halfway (very often much earlier) through the book.

These authors fall into a self-made trap. They can avoid this by writing something new in every book. Roald Dahl’s books : George’s Marvellous Medicine, Twits, Mathilda, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate factory, all had something new to offer. So did Rowling’s books.  Though the seven potter books had the same setting of Hogwarts and the same set of characters, each book had something new to offer. There were surprises and shocks aplenty, new entrants who took us unawares, several times the plot took unexpected twists that had readers eager to know what would happen next.

Have you ever felt that a particular writer is falling into the trap? How do you personally manage to avoid the writing trap? Please share, we all can learn from your experience.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

IWSG Post – Not Writing Fast Enough

 It’s once again time for our monthly IWSG post. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. IWSG is the place we writers hang around online, sharing our writing insecurities, anxieties, worries, clearing our doubts and learning from each other. As all the writers are at different stages of their publishing journey, there is a wealth of information on the IWSG website.

Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh (author of the Amazon Bestsellers: CassaStar, CassaStorm, CassaFire and Dragon of the Stars), started this amazing group. We all are thrilled to be a part of Super A’s (my nickname for Alex) group. It’s not easy to emulate this helpful and kind guy. But we are trying.

I’m co-hosting this month’s IWSG with Yolanda Renee, Tyrean Martinson, LK Hill, JA Scott and Madeline Mora Summonte.

This month my insecurity is not writing fast enough. When I see some of these writers bringing out two to three books in a year, marketing them, blogging, reading, working on other books, I feel quite insecure. I wonder how do they it. I’m barely able to work on one, max two books at a time. If I concentrate on my writing, my reading suffers. If I tackle my features and book reviews, my writing slips. It’s so difficult to juggle all these balls in the air and not drop a few of them.

To make the IWSG Day more fun and interactive, it has been decided that every month a question will be announced which members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt us to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. We can include our answer to the question in our IWSG post or let it inspire our post if we are struggling with something to say. 

The July 6 question - What's the best thing someone has ever said about your writing?

One of the best compliments I’ve ever received is when the Principal of a reputed school in Bangalore spoke about my book ‘The Lion Who Wanted to Sing’ in her graduation day speech. She called my children’s book motivational and inspiring and urged students to emulate the lion when pursuing their dreams. When I heard about this I was super-duper happy.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Navigating the Tough Maze of Titles

  Whenever I read the titles of some of the books, I’m quite green with envy. The titles are simply mindblowing. They are not just intriguing, they also convey the essence of the story.

 I wonder how the writers, or maybe it’s the editors of the publishing houses who come up with these awesome titles, do it.

Once upon a long time back I hated giving my stories and features (I write features for several newspapers) titles. If I gave titles they would be boring and dull. The editors always changed my story titles.

My journalism teacher in college would always complain that my features were very interesting but not the titles. She constantly urged me to choose better titles for my articles and features. According to her my titles never did my writing justice. She would say, “Coming up with catchy titles is an art that every writer must master. People read articles based on titles. Boring titles show that the feature may also be boring. Catchy titles are useful in attracting people’s attention. Titles should be engaging, catchy and interesting.”

This habit of coming up with mediocre titles followed me when I started writing for newspapers. Often the titles of the features and stories I sent were changed. And changed for the better.

I constantly wondered how other writers came up with such awesome and amazing titles. Jealousy and envy stabbed my heart whenever I read their titles. Days later when I discussed this with a writing friend, she agreed. She too was tortured by titles. But her advice was something I just loathed. “I never give titles for my stories, the editor will anyway change it. So why waste time?”

To become title savvy, I pondered over the titles of the books I read. Did it suit the story? Was it a perfect match? Slowly I transferred this detailed attention onto my work. What was I trying to tell my readers? What was the article/book all about? How could I sum up the work in a few words? What was the best way to convey what I had written? Which words correctly describe my story?

 It was a tedious task, but eventually I got the hang of it. Nowadays the title trauma no longer affects me. For the past several years, the editors have thankfully retained most of my titles.

What about you all? Do Titles Trouble and Torment you? Or, are you the lucky ones who come up with winners? Do you have any title tips that you would like to share?

P.S. My next post will be on 6th July as IWSG co-host