Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A New Distraction

The book that I am working on right now, was actually started to distract me from fretting about the query business and also because the plotting for my MG  Paranormal Trilogy was not going too well; a result of excess adherence to all the Writing Craft books I am reading and trying to follow. I got so fed up with stressing over the Inciting Incident and raising the Key Question in the reader’s mind, that I temporarily put that book on the back burner. I will return to it next year.

This new book  I am writing, I feel it is like a cuddly teddy bear (the reason I called the story cuddly is because it has come to my mind at a time I badly needed a story to distract me by embracing me in its warmth and letting me forget everything). 

I cannot deny the immense help that writing craft books have to offer, after all they have been written by experts who know what they are talking about, but too strict an adherence to these tips can be detrimental to one’s inherent writing skills. As a writer, I have both my share of strengths and weaknesses and no amount of reading craft books can help me, if I don’t actually sit down to write that first draft. For me the world- building happens as I write; then the characters start whispering their secrets and revealing their stories to me.

My current literary playmate is a new book, something I am pretty excited about. I am writing in the First Person Narrative for the first time. For this book, I have just the beginning and the end in my mind. The rest of the story is unfurling every time I put pen to paper. Every time there are new words on the paper, I am surprised to see my story grow and characters too grow.

For me the two characters appeared in my mind and now its time for me to tell their story. I have realized that with this book I will follow my instinct and go with the flow; without any pre-conceived notion of technique. The book may not find a publisher, but I will know with a certainity that I wrote something I was passionate about.

What about you all? Do you follow writing craft books strictly or do you follow your own story telling abilities. What do you think is the correct method of story-telling? Is it writing what one is passionate about or following what craft books endorse?

P.S. I am taking a blogging break  for few days. My next post will be on 3rd Jaunary 2012. Here is wishing all my writing friends and blog buddies a Merry Christmas and a Wonderful and Joyous 2012.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Guest Post with Writer Shelley Souza

Today's guest post is by a writing friend of mine, who I met online. Shelley  Souza and I met on Face Book’s closed Group for writers called Warrior Chat. Shelley is ever ready to help other writers hone their craft and write the best story they can write, with her insightful advice and tips. 

BIO- Shelley Souza received a Master of Fine Arts in directing from U.C. Irvine and spent over two decades developing and staging new plays by established and emerging playwrights. She authored hundreds of articles on new technology (which she loves) and ghostwrote four non-fiction books for clients of an independent publisher. She is a member of the Authors Guild and SCBWI

Shelley’s Guest Post

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I decided to be a writer when I was around seven and for a while believed I wanted to write plays. As it turned out, I did go into theatre but as a director. One thing I learned in theatre is that act breaks are artificial. They allow for scenery changes and for the audience to go to the bathroom. The present trend of applying this artificial construct to novel writing seriously messed with my head as a writer! For a long time I could not visualize constructing a plot to fit the three-act structure, no matter how many books on the method I read. Eventually, I managed to get something to click but it didn’t help me to figure out the story. Because the three-act structure is concerned with more artificial constructs that also belong to plays: an inciting incident, a first plot twist, a second plot twist, a climax, a reversal, and so on. I was about to throw in the towel on novel writing when I became unwell.

During my illness I didn’t have the energy to read or to write. What little strength I had was spent on watching clips of J.K. Rowling. Two things stood out: her belief in her ability to tell a story and her belief in the story she was telling (Harry Potter). I began to question my reason for writing the story I was working on and discovered I didn’t really believe in it, the way J.K. Rowling was speaking of belief. I started asking myself why, when I was a child, I never tired of opening a new book. What I discovered was surprising beyond belief.

I put aside the story I had been working on—even though many writer friends and my writing coach at the time loved the main character—and began working on a story I would have loved when I was young and that I would love to read today. It meant abandoning everything I had been told a story should contain (and not contain). It meant trusting myself in a way I never had. Trusting what I already knew about myself: I was a reader and a writer. Therefore, everything I needed to know about story was already inside me. I didn’t need anyone else’s rules to tell me how to write my story.

For the first time in my life as a writer, every day, I wake up and I am excited to write. Not my story, I’m not yet close to writing the narrative, but the internal logical of the characters and their reason for being in this story and not another.

The best distinction I read recently (by an amazon reviewer of a Harry Potter film) was this: “plot is what happens to the characters; story is what happens AS A RESULT OF the characters.” I’m a story, not a plot, writer. What kind of writer are you?

Shelley's Tumblr Blog- http://shelleysouza.tumblr.com/ 

Thank you, Shelley, for generously sharing with us what you have learned in your writing journey.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Greatest Gift for a Writer

The greatest gift that anyone can give a writer is to read her/his work. Readers are absolutely important for writers and by readers I don’t just mean the Beta Readers, but also the other readers who go out and buy our books or perhaps borrow them from the library.

 My first contact with my readers came about when I started writing for the newspapers. These initial readers went a long way in encouraging me and egging me on to continue writing. In those days, every where I went people who would have read my articles, features and stories in the supplements of the newspapers would come up to me and mention how much they liked my writing or how it appealed to them. During those days I wrote a lot of features and articles in the weekly supplements. For several minutes I would bask in the warmth of their praise.

This hasn’t changed even a little bit. I still crave feedback from my readers. Sometimes I wonder whether it’s these words of praise that fuels a writer’s writing.

One of my all time favourite reader: an old gentleman, would make it a point to walk up to me in the club I visit, and tell me how much he loved my story/feature/article. He had never missed any article I had written for the newspapers. Infact, he even told me that the moment he received the morning’s paper, he would look for my byline and if he saw an article by me, he would read that first and then move on to the other news.

When I started writing children’s stories, he followed me into that territory faithfully. Its readers like him (he is no more) that I cherish and it’s their comments that motivate me to keep writing.

Do you all have any favourite memories where readers are concerned? Any reader or any particular reader comment that has stayed in your mind forever? No, we all won’t think you are gloating or indulging in self-praise. I am sure we all are interested in reading about what your readers think of your writing. It’s practically the end of the year and we all badly want a little cheer and smiles to light up our faces. Please feel free to write about your readers.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Trust Your Story

Listening to me rave and rant  about the long wait to hear back from agents, that is really stretching my patience to its limits, one writing friend advised me, “ Trust your story.” Faith, trust and belief are words I would associate with spiritual life, I would even use them when I mention friendships and relationships, but not where writing was concerned.

 Later, when I revisited her advice, I realized that she was not wrong. We writers do have to trust our stories, trust it implicitly, that’s why we are able to spend endless amount of time writing and rewriting it and polishing it as close to perfection as possible. It’s this trust that sees us willingly adopt the hardships that come with a writer’s life. Writing is definitely not for the faint- hearted. And querying certainly is not.

The trust does take a beating, when our manuscripts are sent out on several journeys starting with Crit partners and ending with editors. Everyone has a different view about it; starting with how we started the story, whether our characters resonated with the readers, whether our plot gripped the reader and winding down to the resolution. It’s at times like these that the trust takes a huge beating.

Ofcourse I trust my story. I love it to bits. But, there are several people involved who need to trust my story and story-telling ability as much as I trusted it. These are the people who rule the publishing world and make important decisions that a writer’s career hinges on.

It’s this trust that sees me start my next manuscript and again it’s this trust that sees me invest lots of my time in a world that to start with only I believe in.

Has your trust ever wavered in your story? Has your trust in whatever you are doing in life ever meandered away from you? Have you doubted the literary world you have created? How have you regained the trust and faith that has moved away? We all would love to know all about your tryst with trust.

P.S. Here is a  wonderful post by my friend Patrick on How to Create  an E- Book. Click here for Patrick's tutorial.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Agents Versus Independent Publishing

From the past few days, I have noticed that several writing friends, my crit partner and many blog buddies have opted for the Independent Publishing route instead of waiting for an agent’s nod. The few writers I managed to chat with online had just one thing to say, that they were bogged down by the entire query business: writing that perfect query, waiting ages for an agent to request a partial or a full, then spending several months for the said agent to reply. Most never got a reply even after being asked for a full manuscript.

 The Independent Publishing route is pretty fast, from the day of the contract signing to publishing, there is a gap of less than a year. And most of the writers are thrilled that they have bypassed an agent’s hefty commission.

What one writer said to me was, “ there is no guarantee that even after I sign with an agent, that he or she will be able to sell my book. I may have to wait for months and months and  then start searching for another agent.”

Another writer said that even after requesting a full manuscript submission at a conference where the writer made her pitch, the said agent took ages to get back with any kind of feedback. By then the writer was so exhausted with the submission process that she just went ahead with the Independent Publishing house which was ready with a contract.

I would love to have an agent represent me and champion my Manuscript to editors, but to be honest the entire query business is wearing me down mentally. I find the long wait is killing me and the silences from most agents more deadly that cyanide. To divert my attention from agents I am working on several projects. Though I stepped on the Query bus just 3 months back, I am getting weary.  Maybe deep down I am succumbing to the lure of going the Indie way. The only thing preventing me is that the book I am querying is a standalone book. Most Indie publishers prefer signing a  2 to3 book deal. Standalones are a hardsell at any time.

Another trend I have noticed is that most of my writing friends are going the YA (Young Adult) way. There is a huge market for them. MG (Middle Grade) fiction, which I write is being forced to take the second place.

What do you all feel about the Agent versus the Independent Publishing Route? What would you all personally opt for? How much time is right before one gives up on the query process and starts looking for other alternatives? Please share your views with us?

Friday, December 2, 2011

How not to Let Rejection Hurt and Affect Us

A writer’s most unfavourite word is Rejection. In its nine alphabets the word encapsulates the crashing of a writer’s dream and hard work. It’s a word I fear quite a bit like a cactus. It also a word I personally avoid. I dislike saying that a publisher or an editor rejected my book. I would rather say that my book was turned down or declined. These words are less harsh and hurt less.

Actually even if we use the word rejection, the sting can be removed from it because there are several reasons a manuscript has been rejected or turned down.

An editor friend of mine from one of India’s biggest publishing houses explained to me that when they refuse a book there are several reasons.

  1. Sometimes a book is turned down because the editor is not in love with the story. “I like the story but I am not in love with it.” I have heard of this reason.
  1. Sometimes even good books are refused, books which the editorial committee may have approved in stage one of the selection process, may be disapproved in stage two because of  financial constraints. The publishing house just does not have the money to pump into this book at the current time.
  1. Several times books are turned down because publishers are unable to think of a marketing strategy for that particular book. Books that cannot be marketed do not sell well. ( A publisher called me and personally told me that they were refusing one of my chapter book because they feared that they would be unable to market it, even though they liked the book a lot). 
  1. Very often the publishers have brought out a book similar to the one submitted  some time back and do not want to repeat themes. They prefer to tackle different books. One of my  Short Story Collection  met with this fate. The publisher asked me to wait for 3 years. I thought that was too much.
  1. Books that do not follow certain trends: read as books on unusual, bold themes, or archaic themes are refused for fear of them not selling well.
  1. Books that need a lot of editing, both structural as well as grammatical translates into a refusal. Editors just do not have the time or energy to devote to such manuscripts. Everyone prefers a polished piece that requires minimum editing. Editors don’t mind corroborating with writers when a manuscript  is outstanding and editorial changes can further enhance it, turning it into literary  magic.
  1. Many times even good books are turned down as there is a lacunae, in the style of writing and the theme. The theme may be for older children while the writing style for younger ones, or vice versa.
  1. Good books are turned down as  the publishing house’s  publishing programme is full for the next couple of years and there is no room for new manuscripts, unless it’s a part of a series.
  1. Several times good books by first time authors are turned down in favour of  not so good books by authors who publishers consider well known or brand names. Brand names according to my editor friend ensures that the First Print Run sells.
There are several reasons for the rejection of a manuscript. There is no need for us (writers ) to  feel insulted or hurt.  A rejection does not mean that a writer is bad, it just means that the story has not resonated with the editor or that they have different visions for it. It’s nothing personal. Do you feel there are any other reasons for rejecting a manuscript?  What does rejection mean to you?Please share with us.

P.S. To spruce up your Book Promotion and Marketing Skills, read this amazing post by Carolyn Howard Johnson on my dear friend, Stephen Tremp's blog.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tips on Planning a Trilogy/Series

Planning a series has made me a nervous wreck. I am reading as much as I can on how to make each book of my Middle Grade Paranormal Trilogy, a Standalone one. I liked Janice Hardy tips which I read on the blog- Literary Rambles.  It made a lot of sense and is helping me in plotting the 3 books, creating individual conflicts for each book and thinking about the character arc.

Planning a Trilogy does take a lot of effort. There are several things to keep a track of, there is a tendency to overdo on the backstory and there is a fear of repeating oneself. Writers have to create plots that can stand on their own feet and push the story forward.

 I am undergoing several fears about introducing too many characters in the first book and leaving too few for the next two. I am trying to create for each book an individual conflict, story arc and resolution.

When I read Janice Hardy’s interview in the blog- Literary Rambles, it was like a blessing in disguise. Here is Janice’s advice regarding a trilogy.   
1. Give each book a solid stand alone plot. The story can continue from book to book, but the more solid your core conflict is, the easier it’ll be to write. You’ll have a good understanding of the goals and stakes and won’t be floundering to figure out how it all fits together.

 2. Pretend the previous book(s) is the backstory. Don’t try to rehash or re-explain all of book one or two. Just pretend it’s part of the character’s history and treat it same as you would any other backstory. Once the first draft is done, you’ll know what needs to be fleshed out for new readers.

3. Keep revealing new stuff. Even if the plot is different, if readers don’t learn anything new about the characters or the world, it can feel like the same basic book all over again. Show new aspects of the world, the characters, the problems, the stakes, etc.

How many of you all are writing a series or a Trilogy. How difficult is it to keep  track of everything. Do you all have any tips that will make my writing a trilogy easy? Please share your thoughts with us.

Friday, November 25, 2011

How many Drafts should a Manuscript Undergo?

Few months back, a writing friend asked me, “how many drafts did your manuscript undergo?” I said, “several.” I really had lost track of the number of drafts I had made of that particular manuscript. She was shocked. According to her, manuscripts that undergo 7 to 8 drafts are just not a normal writing procedure.

 “Ideally, a manuscript should undergo just 3 drafts,” she said. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at that, because the manuscript I am subbing has definitely undergone more than 3 drafts. I may not remember the actual draft count, but I had revised the book like hell.

 I don’t think there is a standard draft procedure or a norm where books are concerned. All I am aware is that the first draft is no where ready to be published, its not even ready to be shown even to the family members whose critiquing abilities don’t match other writers. The first draft is often a literary mess, a jumble of words that make sense only to the writer. It’s just a clutch of scenes, sometimes the scenes are not even linked. It’s as we move on to the next few drafts that the manuscript gets a semblance of a story; that there is a cause and effect sequence to it.

It’s different for every writer. 3 drafts may be too less for some writers, while it may be too much for few lucky ones. My first drafts are sometimes too lengthy and sometimes too sketchy. There is never a balance. I add the finer details slowly. The first draft is just the basic scene.

Do you think there is a set rule for drafts? How many drafts of a manuscript is normal? How many drafts do you all make of your manuscripts? When do you feel its time to send it to Crit Partners or Beta Readers?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Forgotten Art of Longhand Writing

 Today I did something that I have always loved doing, writing in longhand. Normally I switch on the computer and tap away furiously at my laptop keys. This new WIP, needed  me to revert to my long forgotten roots. When I started writing, I would write with a blue ball point pen on lined foolscap sheets. The first drafts were always on paper.

These would then be transferred to the computer. As I got busy with other things, I started writing on the computer itself to save time. I would just open a word document and start typing. Somewhere with my busy schedule I had forgotten the joys of writing longhand.

When I picked up the reams of foolscap sheets presented to me by my dad (dad had searched long and hard in Bangalore to get these lined foolscap sheets, I had just casually mentioned to him that I was missing my usual paper as the stationary shops near our house had all closed down). I was thrilled. Nothing like visiting old times. Yesterday, the first day of the week I started writing the rough outline of the first book of my Middle Grade Paranormal Trilogy. I am rewriting the first book, keeping just few scenes from the original draft.

It was sheer pleasure to watch the sheets fill up with my handwriting. Every filled page sent ripples of delight coursing through my body. By the end of the day, I was quite happy with my writing progress. While writing, the feel of the smooth paper was bliss. I don’t know why, but I prefer staring at a blank sheet of paper than a blank screen. A blank screen tempts me to open my browser and check my mails, blog or facebook.

I feel longhand writing really unleashes my creativity. It sure turns my normal moody muse into a caring and helpful creature. It also sets free my blocked and choked up brain cells. For a few days I have decided to carry  around the page in which  I have outlined the plot, so that I can fine tune the outline and add more to it.

I know it’s a lengthy process: first writing, then typing. I am just going to write chapter outlines and the major scenes, not the entire book. Lot of it will get changed while writing the consecutive drafts. I am seeing the positive side of it. While typing I can also edit and make the changes.

What about you all? Do you cherish the times when you wrote longhand or do you prefer its quicker version; typing once for all on the computer. What do you all feel about writing longhand? Is it too cumbersome for you all? What is your writing method?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Are we Scribblers or Gods of our Universe?

Are we just Scribblers (penning stories) or are we Gods of our Universe. As writers we get to play  God with our literary characters. We  become something akin to their Destiny Makers. We have the ability to bring them to throbbing life, or kill them with one stroke of a pen, or, with the click of a few  keys. We have the means of  ridding  them of their problems quickly, or tormenting  them for several chapters.

In the literary world we can do everything that we cannot do in our real world. Would we create problems in someone’s life like we do with relish in our protagonist’s life? God forbid. No. Never. Would we  ever be accused  of manipulating people in real life, in the way we manipulate all our characters? Again the answer would be no. But when we write we keep aside our guilt conscious, and trouble and torture our characters mercilessly. At times with glee. The more problems we add in their lives the  more believable the character becomes. A case of  the Written Life  emulating the Real  Life. 

As scribblers we give full rein to all our fantasies, create make believe worlds, people the world  with believable protagonists, add loathable antagonists, generously add conflicts of all kinds, and finally resolve it  to universal appeal.

As writers we have complete control of the destinies of each and every character we create, not just the main. We set the stage for the entry and exit of all the people who have initially resided in our imaginations. In real life more often than not we are helpless.

Have you noticed that the lack of influence we have over the people in our lives:  family; parents, spouse, siblings, children, and friends doesn’t trouble us during writing? Our characters unlike our family and friends cannot call us interfering busybodies or control freaks when we meddle with their lives. Writing is  the only time we are in complete control (provided the muse is co-operating, and distractions that deter us from writing are at bay, and we get uninterrupted writing time).

 In our literary worlds characters are created with impunity, they are shown the door unceremoniously, flying on the wings of   imagination our characters indulge in activities that we would never dare to do! Deep down most of our characters  reflect our secret desires and passions. Sometimes I think even the not so nice ones.

Our characters are puppets that we manipulate to put on a wonderful performance that will leave the readers asking for more.

 Are we writers closet control freaks? Is that one of the main appeals of writing for you? To be in complete control of every aspect of our character’s  life?  Or, do we love to create new worlds, new situations and new people? What aspect of writing appeals to you all the most? I  would love to know.

PS: This is one of my earliest posts. As I had no post planned for today, I kind of cheated by re-posting an older post.

Would like to alert you all to a fun Blog- Fest  hosted by Madeleine. Click Here to know more about it and join the Blog-Fest. This is one Blog- Fest in which you are allowed to use Cliches.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Have you got your Writerly Stuff Ready?

Few days back, when the people in charge of the Short story competition in which my short story for children won a special prize asked me to send my picture with a short  Bio for their website, I went into a mad scramble trying to find a suitable picture. Finally I had to beg my nephew to take a picture ( it wasnt a good one) but then I had no other alternative. The author bio too needed a little bit of effort from my side.

 Three days back, when the editor of Penguin asked me to send my author bio for the Anthology in which one of my short story appears, I very happily sent them as I had already written one. 

It was then I realized that its necessary for writers to keep few things handy and do few other things before the book is out.

 Author Bio- where all our writing credentials are mentioned as well as our qualifications in a word document saved under the title of Author Bio. This can be updated often whenever we add on to our writerly activities, namely mention of competitions won, articles published, books published and short stories that have appeared in Anthologies. One agent I wanted to query asked for a detailed list of articles and stories published with links to each article. Needless to say, I did not query that agent as I don’t have these details in hand.

Author Picture. A picture that agents and editors  want to put up on their websites under the list: Clients. This is something I am looking forward to even though I am very unphotogenic. It would be wonderful.  Currently I don’t have a picture ready, but this situation will be tackled soon. We never know when God decides to smile upon our writing efforts.

Visiting/Business Card.  I have often heard that its important  for writers to have a visiting card with their  credentials, contact details as well as their websites. To be honest, I have never bothered with a visiting card. I am still debating on this issue.

 Website. This is another area I have not given much thought to. It’s my personal thought that I would go for a website when I have more books published. But, I have heard that it’s never too early to get a website as that makes writers look professional in front of agents.

Blogs. Blogs have become necessary tools for building platforms. Most of us already blog. The only thing I will add here is frequent posts; even once a week is good enough. Blogs that have not seen any updates from months send out a wrong impression.

Twitter. I have no clue about Twitter, but I have heard that it’s a great  way to keep up to date on the latest publishing news. And its also a wonderful way to build a platform.

Facebook Page. This can be either a Author Page or a Book Page. Its a great way to get the interest going.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me whether you have all your writerly stuff ready. I am guilty of many  writing transgressions. What about you all? Have I forgotten anything?

Friday, November 11, 2011

If I were to Write with my Mother Beside Me

If  ever I were to write with my Mother sitting beside me, issuing instructions  then it would spell literary catastrophe. Because the kind of stories mom reads are definitely not the kind of stories I write.

 Mom loves romances. I don’t write that genre. Though I don’t mind a good romance  once in a while, I am past that age where I swoon over the hero’s gorgeous looks and sigh every time the hero/heroine come near for a liplock.

She loves simple stories with less characters. For me unless there are 35 to 45 characters in my manuscripts I feel lonely. Writing Middle Grade Fiction based in schools makes it easy to add so many characters. Too many characters and mom loses track of them. She has to keep going back to refresh her memory.

Mom loves Happily Ever After. I really don’t care who dies at the end of a book. I just love a good story. But if my reader is anything like my mother, then God forbid if my story has an unhappy ending. That would be sacrilege, a violation of rights. How could I do that to her? She has taken out time to read my book and I cheated her by depriving her of a happy ending! How could I? How dare I?

She loves a clear ending. Many of the endings of my short stories are ambiguous and left to the readers’ imagination and she has often cribbed that she was confused by them.

She hates heavy doses of love scenes.  Fortunately for me, MG fiction really doesn’t give me a chance to explore that area. I will have to think of that when I write a novel.

Mom has cursed authors who have belittled their countries. Several award winning authors have met her disapproval for running down our motherland and showing us in a bad light. I agree. I would hate to run down my country just so that some publishers publishes my work.

If the story tugs mom’s heart strings and plays with her emotionally then she will rave about the book to everyone she meets. The writer can and should hire her to market the book as you just cannot get a better publicist than mom.

Strong and well rounded characters with an inherent sense of honesty, loyalty and dignity who abide by truth and decency win her over. She loves to see the moral fibre in her characters.

Characters who love and respect not just their elders, but every human they come across meet her approval. My characters are all brats.  Who play pranks on their loved ones.  Mom sure won’t be rooting for them.

If I were to write with my mom in mind, I would have to create a super virtous character, who has absolutely no or very few vices, who has never harmed anyone not even a mosquito, and who can be called an angel.

What about you all? If you were to write with a loved one sitting beside you and subtly guiding you, what are the things you would avoid in your manuscripts? What are the things you would be adding to the character and story? Please share, it will be fun to read the way your loved ones guide your writing.

PS: Mom very graciously allowed me to upload one of her favourite pictures of her and Dad.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Getting Out of a Writing Slump

For the past few days I had been sinking into the longest and deepest writing slump of my life. At the start of October, I had decided to do NaNo. It would have been my first NaNo and I was tremendously excited. I decided to plan a rough outline of the MG novel I would be re-writing as well as outlining books 2 and 3.

But, someone up there had different plans for me. Every time I started rewriting or planning the outline, it was dismissed by my inner editor as being too mediocre, too clichéd, too  stereotypical. My inner editor constantly shouted, “Try something different. Go for the unusual. ”

I think being on submission too did its bit. Querying is a nerve twisting process, especially for writers like us (being in  India we are too far away from the hub of the publishing world) who have no access to  conferences or cannot get a referral. Most agents I wanted to query were closed to submissions. They either wanted to work with a writer they had met at a conference or a writer who was referred to them by one of their clients.

My writing  (crit) partners rallied around me, but every writer’s advice clashed with the other writer’s.  I was driving myself crazy.

My best friends during that 14 day long slump were all the writing craft books I had bought. At any moment you could see these books lying on my bed. I would be frantically making notes on how to hook the readers from page one, how to move the conflict  up to the first page, make the story question apparent as soon as was possible.

I had  done very little writing in the last few days, though I brainstormed a lot. To get away from all this, I plunged into reading. Reading is very theraupetic. I read two books from the Kane Chronicle Series, I enjoyed Hunger Games, I read Animal Farm. I also went out a lot; caught up with my non-existent social life and stopped thinking of both the query business and writing that perfect book.

Slowly the sun shone out from among the dark and stormy clouds. I think it was my faith in God that provided the ultimate break through. The break through finally happened, though I didn’t feel the effects immediately, I know the cobwebs covering my creative cells are falling away and the writer’s block is melting.

This was literally the worst phase of my writing life. I definitely don’t want to go through this again. Has something like this happened to you? Have you been in prolonged writing slumps? How many days has the slump lasted and how did you manage to get out of it? Please share your stories, we all can benefit a lot from it.  

Friday, November 4, 2011

Help for the Beginnings, Middles and Endings

As I am rewriting Book 1 of my MG Paranormal Trilogy and also planning book 2 and 3, I find myself turning more and more to one of my favourite writing craft books: Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell.

I am sharing a few things Bell suggests.


The first task of your beginning is to hook the reader.

 Use great opening lines, teasers, attitude, story frames or prologues to grab the reader.

 Watch out for dull exposition at the beginning. Act first; explain later.  


 The strongest plots have a sense of death hovering over the head. This can be physical death, psychological death or professional death.

Adhesive holds the lead and opposition together. If the lead can solve the problem simply by resigning from the action, the reader will wonder why he doesn’t do so.

Duty is often the adhesive. A professional duty ( as in a cop solving a case) or a moral duty ( as in a mother fighting to save her child). Physical location can be an adhesive, where it is impossible for a character to leave a place.

The fundamental rhythm of a novel is action, reaction, more action (ARM). You can control the pace by how you control the beats.

Raise the stakes throughout the middle portion of the novel. Stakes can relate to plot, character and society.


There are three basic types of endings: the lead gets his objective; the lead loses his objective; or we don’t know if the lead gets it.

The lead can gain his objective, but with a negative result attached;or he can lose his objective with some positive result.

Sacrifice is a powerful element in many endings.

Some endings focus on the final battle the Lead must fight. Others focus on the final choice the lead must make.

Keeping all these pointers in mind sure does help in plot points. Do you all have any favourite writing craft book that you frequently refer to? How do you all plot your books? Any pointers for me to help me plot better?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lessons I Learnt from Rick Riordan

Last week I read the first two books of the Kane Chronicles written by Rick Riordan: The Red Pyramid and The Throne of Fire. I must admit that the books were a very racy read. I could barely put them down.

 I have read practically all the Percy Jackson books and am a huge fan. I liked the dual point of view of storytelling adopted by the author for the Kane Chronicles Series. The story is told in the form of recordings by the siblings. The brother and sister take turns to narrate the story.

Every alternate chapter is told from the point of view of either the brother Carter or the sister Sadie. To avoid confusion, beside the chapter headline is the name of whoever is telling that part of the story.

Rick has completely dispensed with not just a long winded introduction, but with any introduction. He plunges his readers into the heart of the problem where the siblings’ father, the brilliant Epyptologist Dr Julius Kane blows up the British Musuem.

What the author has given the readers is a ticket to a roller coaster ride. The readers get to know the siblings as the story progresses; just bits and pieces about their life.

Another master stroke adopted by the author is the number of ancient Egyptian Gods who make their entry throughout the books.  The author has added oodles of appeal to all the Gods. What I liked a lot was the author’s complete hatred for long winded explanations about the myths and legends surrounding each and every God. Its literally a case of , “Hi I am Bast, Goddess of  cats and I am here to help you two.”

The author has blended Egyptian myths and history seamlessly into the story, facts have been woven and what has emerged is a tapestry of fiction. Boredom has been denied entry.

 There is action on every page. Every page sees the two siblings fighting fierce monsters. These monsters have been sent by Set; a God of Ancient Egypt. Dollops of humour urge the story along.

Improvisation is the name of the game where the author is concerned. A god who drives an RV and  travels by plane. A blood thirsty monster (as the legend says)  is given several pints of Salsa sauce, a basketball loving baboon and a Dwarf who wears a blue Speedo and has trouble in his love life all make for an amusing and great read.

 What do you all think of Rick Riordan’s unique way of story telling and his take on the Egyptian Gods and myth. Is there anything in particular you all have learnt from Rick Riordan? Please share with us?

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Lure of Imperfect Characters

I am not sure about other writers, but personally I love Imperfect characters; both while reading and while writing. Most of the characters I create have some or the other imperfection in them. Imperfection is actually the new perfection. The smudge of Imperfection in characters adds an unexplainable and undefinable appeal.

Characters in books mirror real life people. We all have our own individual idiosyncrasies, flaws, shortcomings and insecurities. So it’s nothing unusual if characters reflect these traits. Actually this quality (Imperfection) makes a character more real. Readers find it easy to identify with someone who is imperfect. Someone who makes mistakes, is swayed by emotions, is prone to mood swings is more real than a character who is calm and unruffled and who never makes mistakes. Though we look up to perfect people, they do give us a temporary sense of insecurity.  We feel small in front of them. We may even secretly and subtly resent their perfection and larger than life image. But it’s the imperfect characters we bond with. In their presence we revel in our own imperfections. 
 Have you all noticed that more and more often our protagonists lead imperfect lives. As the story unfolds, these imperfect characters leading imperfect lives try to resolve the conflict by tackling their own personal imperfections first. 
Aristotle called it Hamartia, which was seen as a character flaw. This character flaw can be a limitation, a problem, a phobia, or a deficiency present in a character who is otherwise quite normal. The character flaw may be a violent temper that may turn out to affect the character’s actions, abilities, or interactions with other characters. Sometimes it can be a simple personality defect which only has effect on the character’s motives and social interaction and nothing else. 
Flaws or imperfection add depth and humanity to the characters in a narrative. For eg the mayor with a penchant for gambling, the hero with claustrophobia, the heroine with an alcohol problem. One of the most famous example is ‘ Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.’ 
Character flaws can be slotted into three categories.
 Minor Flaws make the characters memorable in reader’s mind, these give the character individuality, but other than that they do not affect the story in any way. They can be a scar, an accent, biting the lower lip, twirling the moustache, a girl constantly flinging her hair back. A protagonist can have several minor flaws, each having no effect on the plot.
Major Flaws are noticeable and important. They affect the individual physically, mentally, emotionally, morally or spiritually. Major flaws are not necessarily negative : they can be rigid religious beliefs or a strict adherence to a certain lifestyle. Major flaws like: greed, blindness, deafness, lust, often hamper and restrict the character in one way or the other. The major flaw is important for the character’s personal development and the story. Heroes and heroines must overcome their own major flaws either partially or completely, either temporarily or permanently, at some point in the story, very often by the climax, by sheer determination or skill to be able to solve the larger problem at hand. For a villain his major flaw is frequently the cause of his downfall. The protagonist’s major flaw defines the core problem, the entire journey to remedy this problem forms the firm backbone of the story, sometimes prodding the plot forward.
The last flaw is the Tragic Flaw, it’s the cause of the character’s downfall and eventual death. Tragic Flaw arises out of the character’s misplaced trust in another character, an excessive amount of curiousity that sucks him into problems, pride that plunges him into a world of loneliness. The fall that often arises out of the Tragic Flaw occurs at the beginning of a story.
Do you like perfect characters? Or Imperfection is the new perfection for you? What kind of character flaws do your characters have? 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Avoiding the Dreaded Cliches

At one time I could have been accused of adopting clichés as my new friends. That was way back in school. Though it took time I outgrew that friendship. Cliches are an editor’s nightmare. They are also a creative writing teacher’s nightmare. Actually, they are everyone’s nightmare. I have nothing personal against clichés, but I really, really hate them. Whenever I come across the common cliches my hands itch to scratch them out.

After reading a few of my students assignments stuffed with clichés of all kinds from plots and characters to the actual writing: her blood was the colour of tomato sauce/ketchup (I seriously stopped eating ketchup), her dress was as green as grass (does anyone still say that?), he was as cool as a cucumber; I decided to devote an entire session to avoiding clichés.  

Granted that few of these students were just out of school, but that’s no excuse to fall heavily into cliché territory.

 I always feel there are better ways of saying things. Instead of saying “the colour of her dress was as green as grass,” we can always say “ her dress was  the colour of freshly watered grass.” This description instantly creates an image of swaying grass with drops of water clinging to it.

Another cliché that really irks me  is “her eyes were blue as the sky,” we can say this in a different way “her eyes were the colour of a summer sky.” There is an instant visual of an endless blue sky devoid of clouds.

A cliché I detest is “ her hair was as black as the night.” There is always a better description, we just have to exercise our creative cells.  Isn’t the description “ her hair was dark as sin, her hair was the color of melted dark chocolate, her hair was the color of a cold winter’s night,” way better.   

 “Far from the madding crowd,” is a cliché I have come across several times. Isn’t  “far from the dust and pollution of the city,” or “ far from city noises,” a slightly better way of describing  the same thing?

Another student of mine had decided to cram as many clichés as possible in her essay. I just hope that she was not testing my patience. Her first cliché “he was as hairy as a bear,” I converted into “a bee could get lost in his body hair”.  Highlighting all the clichés with red, I asked her to write them in a better way. By the end of the session, she had learnt to avoid clichés.

Cliches should be given a royal burial. There is no place for them in a good piece of writing. Cliches are responsible for pieces of writing that come under the heading of  ‘Bad Writing.’

As writers we are supposed to see the unusual in the usual stuff, to see a thing differently is our forte. And to describe it in an unusual way is what we specialize in. Our descriptions conjure vivid images in our readers’ minds. They literally transport them to  other and different worlds.  It’s our moral duty towards our readers to give them different descriptions.

 Is there any cliché you particularly detest? Is there another and better way of describing it? We all would love to read about the clichés you abhor.

PS.  I am taking a small break, as Wednesday 26th October is Diwali (the most important Indian Festival). There won't be a Tuesday post. My next post will be on Friday 28th October. Here is wishing all my writing friends a very Happy Diwali.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Guest Interview with Author Patrick Johnson

Patrick Johnson, pen name SB Jones, is the self published author of The Eternal Gateway series.  He comes from a strong technical background after working for Dell Inc. for eight years and a regular attendee of the DefCon hacker convention. 

 Tell us a little about the Eternal Gateway Trilogy.

 The Eternal Gateway Trilogy centers on a once hidden artifact in the jungle that allows certain worthy people to see and travel to the past or future.  I use a mix of light steampunk: airships, gunpowder tech, trains and mega cities.  Traditional high fantasy: magic, swords and sorcery.  And science fiction: time travel, and physics.  The first novel, Requiem, is a classic hero’s journey of the main character going from the ordinary to the extraordinary.  Guardian takes place five years after the events of Requiem and is a much darker, emotionally charged novel that the characters have to deal with the harsh realities of war.  The fun adventure is over, it’s real now.  The final book, Sentinel, is where everything comes together.  The time travel elements will have you reaching for books one and two again.  Redemption and revenge are the main themes as everything comes full circle.

Where does inspiration for your characters and stories come from?

Most of the characters come from decades ago pen and paper roll playing games created from grade school through high school.  Some started from video games, movies, or TV shows.  For example, Kail and Angela were characters from the pen and paper games, while the airship captain, Camden Arland, I tried to model after LOST’s Sawyer.  As I wrote Requiem, I just wasn’t able to make Camden into a grumpy guy that hated that he had to do the right thing.  My editor says he reminds her of Jack O’Neill from Stargate.

 Do you have any advice for aspiring authors trying to create a trilogy?

 Plan, plan, and plan some more.  As I learn and become more experienced with writing my views change a lot.  A big part of me wishes that I had not published Requiem until the whole trilogy had been written.  I am almost finished writing book two and there so many details that I could go plant seeds for in book one that have cropped up.  I know deep down the trilogy would be better for it if I had waited.  But at the same time, if I had not released Requiem, all of the feedback, comments, and people asking me when the next book comes out, seeing people smile and shaking hands at book signings would never have happened.  Without that, there is a very good chance it would never have been anything more than a rough draft and an outline.

Being a regular follower of your blog, I have realized that you are a serious plotter and outliner. Can you tell us about your plotting method?

 I like to start with note cards.  I put chapters or scenes on them and lay them out on my bar.  It’s nice because you can easily move them around until you get the events the way you want.  It helps eliminate plot holes or giant gaps in events.  Regardless of what you do, things happen that you did not plan for so it needs to be flexible enough that you can adjust and not have to go back or redo work.

Did you try the traditional publishing route or did you go straight into the self-publishing way?

 Honestly I intended to go the traditional route first.  I wrote 5 short children stories called Stan the Man.  My plan was to get Scholastic to pick them up and use that success and money to fund the time while I worked on The Eternal Gateway.  That never happened I just shook my head at the whole query, agent, wait two to ten years for an answer business.  Without an artist or publisher, Stan the Man was shelved.  When I was in the first rounds of edits for Requiem, I heard about Amanda Hocking.  It’s easy to guess where things went from there.

You have said that “One of the nicest thing about being self published, is the fact that your success is directly related to the effort you put in.” How are you going about marketing your book?

Marketing is a topic that will never end.  I think what most self published and even traditionally published authors fail to realize until they are in the middle of it is this.  Writing/story telling is an art.  Publishing is a business.  A lot of authors throw their work up expecting hundreds or thousands of people to buy their book.  When it doesn’t happen by next week, they blame Amazon for it.  A lot put in time and effort to blog, tweet, and Facebook all day, but still fail to sell.  When you look at these authors they are doing a good job marketing to their peers, not their customers.  Great, you have 500 followers, but they are all other authors.  Look up @day9tv on twitter.  71,000+ followers.  Those are all fans, not other internet tv hosts.  Blowing a $100 for a Google ad for a weekend isn’t going to work.  You are better off buying $100 worth of your own book and giving them away at the mall.  The majority of my success has been from getting myself out there.  Book signings, shaking hands, small talk to the person behind you at the checkout line.  And always, always have something on you to give people.  A business card with the cover and information to buy the book.  I have sold more paperbacks and eBooks this way than from blogging, tweeting, and posting on forums.  Don’t neglect these, because they will with time generate sales.  It can take years though for it to happen.

What have you learned about marketing your first book? How will it influence your marketing strategy for your next two books?

I wouldn’t call it a mistake, but I launched Requiem on Monday June 20.  The next day Bantam Books dropped like 140 back listed Star Wars books on Amazon.  When you checked to see what was new in science fiction my book was instantly shoved 10 pages deep.
Coordinating sales is something I am going to try with Guardian.  It doesn’t take many sales to push your Amazon ranking up the charts.  For example if 50 people buy your book spread out through a month, your ranking will be much lower than if you had those same 50 sales in a day or two.  So planning with friends, family, and generating presales and letting people know well in advance when it goes for sale is very important.  Hitting a top 100 subgenera on Amazon is very important for sales.
Last is picking a better launch date.  I have read several times that launching around holidays that have gifts are ideal over random days.  Christmas, Mothers Day, Fathers Day etc are better than mid July or late September.

 How do you manage writing, marketing, blogging, as well as publishing your books? Is there a secret time management skill you would like to share with my readers?

There is no secret.  People have heard this one before.  I treat it like a job.  Tuesdays are my online marketing days, I rarely get any writing done now on Tuesdays as I make the blog rounds, post comments, post a blog, hit the forums, find new blogs, tweet, Facebook and everything else.
The other weekdays, I write.  I get started around 10am, check emails, do a quick look through Google Reader to see what’s new in blogging.  If there are new blogs from certain people, like yours Rachna, I will read it and leave a comment if I can.  Once noon hits, I shut it all off, turn on some music and start writing.  Getting rid of distractions is very important.  It’s all to easy to check your Amazon ranking, email, wander to a forum, browse twitter and find that 3 hours have passed.
My advice for people who don’t have the luxury of being a full time writer is you have to make time.  Writing is a skill, it needs to be done over and over, like exercise. Even an hour a day if you can get in 500-1000 words, you can have a full length novel in 3-4 months.  Nothing will get the book done other than butt in chair.

 Do you have a favorite writing craft book?

I don’t.  I don’t have any books on how to write.  I use Google a lot to look things up when I get stuck or I ask my mother who is a retired school teacher.

Thanks Patrick for giving us a peek into your creative process.

Patrick’s blog www.TheEternalGateway.com
Twitter as @starbuck_jones.
Requiem can be found in paperback and eBook at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Ten Commandments of a Writer

I was so busy this week (tweaking my book) that I forgot to write my usual writing related post. I do have a few serious posts planned, but I had no time to write them down. So, I decided we can all have a little fun. I am sure we have earned it.

If there were ten commandments for a writer, what do you all think they would be? I have compiled a small list. According to me a writer’s ten commandments would be:
                 1. Thou shall not covet thy neighbour’s or another writer's character/story/book/agent.

                 2. Thou shall only worship one God: thy muse.Thou should love and respect it.

                 3. Thou shall consider one’s writing time holy and sacred and not spoil it with 
                     distractions that come in the form of Facebook, Twitter and Cell phones.

                  4. Thou shall honour one’s Characters and Plot.

                  5. Thou shall believe in Revisions, Revisions and more Revisions.

                  6. Thou shall adopt atleast two Crit Partners before unleashing one’s book on   
                      the unsuspecting readers.

                  7. Thou shall avoid clichés and stereotypes.

                  8.  Thou shall love thy Manuscript and believe in it inspite of the rejections
                       piling up.

                  9.  Thou shall not try to kill thy readers with boredom. Thou shall come up with 
                       original plots and characters that will interest readers.

10.    Thou shall not curse agents or wish them evil in case of rejections.

  What are your writing/writer commandments? Any new commandment you would like to share with us? Is  there any commandment that you have ignored. I have been guilty of ignoring all the commandments at some time or the other. Please share your writing sins with us.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What has my writing taught me?

My journey as a writer has been quite long, starting with short stories and features for several years before I took a full fledged plunge into the world of  books. Over the years I have learnt several things in this journey and not just how to create better plots and characters, but also about life.  I want to share these insights with my writing friends.  I am sure few things will make you smile, and some things will make you nod your heads.

  1. Writing has taught me patience. Patience is not one of my better known virtues. The time it takes to write a book from the day the idea pops into my overactive mind, until the day I see the book/ story in its published form is long. At every moment, impatient little me needs loads of patience to be able to do justice to the work I have undertaken. 

  1. Writing has taught me to respect people with split personalities as my personality undergoes a drastic change at different stages of my writing. When I am writing the first draft, I am quite stressed and irritable with the smallest disturbances. When I rewrite I am pretty upset with myself, and when I edit I am relaxed and cheerful.
  1. Writing has made me value other writer’s efforts. I never dismiss a book as crap or run it down, as I am aware of the effort someone else must have invested in that endeavour. The book may have bored me to tears, maybe disappointed me a little, or a lot, but it still required a tremendous effort from someone else to bring it to that stage.
  1. Writing has made me appreciate the little free time I get. For us writers, our work doesn’t end with just writing a publishable book, it starts with that. Once we have jumped onto the publishing bandwagon, we have to actively market our books. Its then we realize that the day could have done with few more hours, or, that we could have done with few less activities. 

  1. Writing has made me realize that If I were to wait for a visit from my muse, I would probable write just a book or two in my lifetime. It has made me realize that with or without the active participation of my muse I have to churn out those words that will fill my manuscript. If my muse sees me working hard, perhaps talking pity on me it will drop in for an extended visit. 

  1. Writing has been responsible for me developing a really thick skin. An editor/agent/reader/publisher/crit partner may not have reacted favourably where my work was concerned, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I am a bad writer, or, that I have to drown myself in self-pity. For every single person out there who doesn’t like my work, there is another person who will love it. Well, I personally have not liked all the books I have read, but that does not mean that the writer is bad, or, has failed. It just means that a particular story has not appealed to me emotionally.
  1. Writing has taught me more about spirituality than the holiest of books. We writers get familiar with every aspect of spirituality: from surrender to working without an eye out for the desired result, to calm acceptance of our book’s fate. Do we know the fate of our manuscripts when we send it on its publishing journey? No. Do we know whether a character we have worked on for years will be loved or dismissed by readers? I am sure not. Do we know the reactions of the readers to our books? Definitely not. Do we know whether we will ever be able to make a decent living from our writing profession? Certainly not. Each cheque is a pleasant surprise.

  1. Writing has made me an observer of life. Nowadays, I soak in everything; from the surrounding to people’s facial expressions to body language to how people speak and react. All this heavy duty observation is to bring authenticity to my writing.

  1. Writing has also made me appreciate the value of other writers in my life in the form of blog buddies/writing friends/crit partners and brainstorming buddies. I know how precious a writer’s time is, but every writer in this awesome blogging community has gone out of their way to help each other.   

  1. Writing has also taught me to appreciate my readers: both for the stories and features I write for the newspapers and my books. It’s the readers’ appreciation that keeps me going.

 What has your writing journey taught you? Please share with us, we all would love to know.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Craft of the Short Story

I am extremely fond of writing short stories. I have written around 60 and practically all of them have been published. I hope to write many  more. Short story was the starting point for my writing career. My editor told me something very sweet about a short story; it’s a novel waiting to grow up. Not always, I said. Many times a short story is just a short story, but, sometimes inside each short story lurks a novel, waiting to emerge.

My Blog Buddy Mark Noce asked me “My big question for you is how to write a short-story without it morphing into a novel. This often happens to me.

To answer Mark’s question, I would have to say that a short story is just a very thin slice of someone’s life, a beam of moonlight, a brief interlude. Its just one tiny incident that has happened in the main character’s life, while the novel is a series of incidents.

Unlike novels, short stories do not have the advantage of a long drawn courtship with the readers. There is no serenading the readers over several chapters. The attraction is Instant. Or, there is no attraction at all. It’s a Do or Die situation.    
One person stories are extremely powerful, and if its in  the first person narrative, then, all the more better. This kind of narrative creates a sense of deep intimacy, the reader gets a close peek into the protagonist’s soul and life.

One of the main features of a short story is that it has just 1 or 2 main characters, too many characters vying for space in a short story spoil the effect; its then like a party where no one has enjoyed the atmosphere. The movement of the characters is severely restricted. The writer is unable to do justice to any of the characters. A crowded characterization is acceptable if it’s a party, or a classroom scene, then, these extras lurk outside the fringes of the story, never interfering with either the protagonist, or, the  movement of the story. Surplus characters slow down the pace of the story.  

The best feature of the short story is its indifference to cramming details about the characters, situations and events. For a short story, it’s like one is packing for a brief holiday: only the basic necessities that we just can’t do without are added to the suitcase.  It’s different from a novel, where one is literally shifting house: bag and baggage.

The reins of the plot of the story are held tight, the writer is aware of each and every breath the story is taking. The breathing is even and measured: no long drawn sighs, or, gasping for breath. The journey of the short story is similar to a ride in which there is no halting, or, loitering around, or, even taking a little rest.  It’s more like a 100 metres dash. Start to finish.

Short stories with ironic and trick endings like ‘The  Necklace’ by Guy Du Maupassant  will seldom be forgotten. The psychological short story popularized by Anton Chekhov has become memorable. The settings in many of his stories is in the minds of his characters, the dialogues are a steady stream of internal monologues. A short  story that has  lingered in many minds  for a long time is ‘The Gift of the Magi’ by O’ Henry. This heart wrenching story is recollected every Christmas.

Short stories that work best have a Twist in the Tales. They certainly grab a reader’s attention. It requires an adept story teller to provide the end that takes the reader completely by surprise. This twist in the tale must stem from either the character, or, the story.

Short stories make the tendency to tie up every loose end redundant. This is its biggest plus point. Few things can be left unsaid, few questions unanswered. A short story is just one scene from the main character’s life; a scene complete with a MC, Conflict and a Resolution. Most short stories start with a conflict, which is then quickly resolved. In a short story you need to start at the climax; think of a person in a setting.

Life Unordinary asked me what is the ideal length of a short story. The ideal length is  400 words for Flash Fiction and 500 words to 800 words for a picture book, 1000 words is appropriate for children’s stories, 2500 to 3500 words is the word count for most competition entries for adult short stories and also for older children. Some writers have gone on to write short stories of 10,000 words.

PS: Just wanted to share with you all the good news that my short story ‘Ganesha’s Blanket of Stars’ won a Special Mention (Prize) in the Unisun Reliance Timeout Competition. Next year I have been asked to judge the competition. I am quite excited about it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Writer’s Many Fears

Like characters, plots, scenes, story lines, different fears too reside inside a writer’s mind overflowing with ideas. Though these fears exist right from the time we put pen to paper (write that first word or type it), they raise their ugly heads when we start querying.

 Everytime there is a deathly silence from agent/agents we have queried these vicious monsters of fears raise their ugly heads. I feel these fears are obstacles created and thrown along our paths by forces unknown to us, to test our mettle, to firm our  weakening determination and belief and to strengthen our resolve to stick to the path chosen by us and make us have a firm faith in our stories.

These fears come in different forms:
  1. Fear of choosing the wrong subject. A subject that is hot now may not even receive a lukewarm response by the time we are thorough with the various drafts and rewrites and ultimately find a publishers/agent and the book finally gets published.
  1. Fear of not doing justice to the main character. A weak character is such a let down. 

  1. Fear of not doing a good job where plot, characters, story arcs, dialogues and settings are concerned. There will always be somebody left dissatisfied with our story/books. 

  1. Fear of not getting an agent. What if no agent likes our stories? 

  1. Fear of the book not finding any home (publishing house) even though the agent is on board. 

  1. Fear of the editor wanting major rewrites that we may not be happy about, or chopping  parts that we considered crucial or important. That is after the book has been placed with a publishing house. 

  1. Fear of being trashed by critics on whose words hang our writing careers. (If a critic is having a bad day, the result is a bad review) 

  1. Fear of readers disliking the book. ( That is  a major fear) 

  1. Fear of the first print run being unsold. (Another  fear that haunts) 

  1. Fear of not being given another chance to redeem ourselves. What if publishers and editors are scared to give us another chance? 

  1. Fear of  failure, of  being unable to rise up to our own expectations? 

 With so many fears surrounding us, it’s a wonder we are able to put pen to paper. Indeed it’s a brave soul that battles these fears to emerge with words that not only make sense, entertain, but also bring joy into someone’s life.

Which fear or shall I say fears do you face or have faced in your writing journey? At this point in time I am facing quite a few of these fears. How do you capture these fears to write day in and day out?  It will be of great help to each of us if you share your experiences and how you handle these fears and stop it from messing with your creativity.