Friday, September 28, 2012

How Critiquing improves our Writing

One of the best ways to improve our writing is by critiquing other writer’s work. There are several benefits involved. One is that we get into an analytical mode. We analyze the cause and effect sequence when we read someone else’s story. If something jars (maybe it’s a description, a scene, a resolution, a character detail) we catch hold of it immediately. We also transfer this skill to our own stories. The more we critique, the better writers we become.
I find it easier to see the mistakes in someone’s elses work (my mom would remark that I have this genetic fault of being extra critical, we will discuss that in another post). With my own work I tend to be biased. I also end up overlooking my flaws and mistakes. It’s only when my crit partners point it out that I realize it, though that shortcoming in my writing would have been under my nose all the time.

Everytime I critique my CP’s work I end up getting more than I give. I think I benefit more from it than they do. For one, I become aware of the errors housed in my own writing. I also know what mistakes to avoid. I also know why certain scenes work and why others do not. When I critique I feel like I am looking into a writing mirror.

 My take is that critiquing is a simple and effective way of honing our skills. And another fact is that a new pair of eyes is beneficial. We get a fresh perspective on our writing. Someone unconnected with a story can bring fresh insight into it. As long as our comments are not harsh or unjustified, it’s a win-win situation.

Do I need to add the loads of good karma we accrue when we help out another writer/person?

Does doing a critique of someone else’s work  help you become a better writer? Does it make you aware of your own writing mistakes? What’s your take on critiquing? I would love to know if critiques are like staring in the mirror for you too?   

Friday, September 21, 2012

Few Changes in my Writing Life

From the past few months, I have seen several changes in my writing life. I was a big fan of writing long hand on sheets of paper. But, for this current WIP, I have forgotten how to write as I just open a word document and start typing. I am saving lots of time this way. And, its easier to go back and tweak something this way.

I had started my writing career by writing short stories. Its ages since I have written one now. I hope I have not forgotten how to write short stories.

I have also adopted the index card method. I am finding it a great tool to plot the book. I have just one regret. I wish I had discovered this method much earlier.

I am also adding lots of sensory details in my writing. Its something that my Crit Partner Mark Noce pointed out. Keeping Mark's feedback in mind, I am also writing shorter sentences and adding details which I have a tendency to overlook. Shorter sentences is making a huge difference to my writing.

I have also been reading a lot. I finished book 1 and 2 of the Millenium Trilogy by Steig Larsson. The books are simply awesome.

You all can see that there are several changes in my writing life. I hope they are all for the better. What are the changes in your writing life? Anything new and different you all are doing? We would love to hear all about it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Dealing with the inner editor

My inner editor is an omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent nuisance who makes my writing life hell. His sense of propriety is so high, that it takes tremendous effort from my side to scale the walls he builds around my first drafts.

He has started interfering with my plot, character motives, scenes and has thrown my writing rhythm off kilter. I was wondering why this time my first draft is taking so long. Usually my first drafts are quick. I can get them down either on paper or on the laptop in a jiffy.

It’s all because of my inner editor sitting on my shoulder, squinting at the screen, its eyes narrowed with disapproval, its face contorted with disgust, its shrill voice screaming a flurry of instructions. Practically every instruction starts with “ don’t write like this, this is not appropriate, why have you written this, mellow that down, how can a school girl think like this, how can you think that about a teacher, that’s not appropriate behaviour for a ten year old Indian school girl/boy, that boy is not a role model,  this is just not right.”

By the time I finish arguing with my inner editor, I have wasted precious writing time. The deadline for my first draft has come and long since gone. I have another deadline looming large. I still have to write the last few chapters. Make that the last one third of the book.

Many times I have shut down the laptop to silence my inner editor. This time I decided enough is enough. I can’t let my inner editor bully me. So I packed his bags and sent the bully on a long holiday, as I need to write the first draft my way.

The moment I kicked it out, I got several plot points in picture. I have gone over the earlier scenes and made the changes. This separation is doing me lots of good. It’s given me the much needed breathing space to write the first draft my way. When my inner editor returns, it will probably die of shock. It’s a risk I am willing to take. I also know that quite a lot of what I am writing now will get the axe when I visit the city of edits. I really don’t mind that as I am enjoying my writing after days.

I would like to know how do you all battle with your inner editors while working on your books? How do you deal with a moralistic inner editor who is driving you up the wall? How do you all silence your inner editors? Please tell us. We all can benefit from your experiences with your  inner editors. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Interview with Author Lydia Kang

Lydia is one of my earliest blog buddies. She has an amazing blog The Word is my Oyster. Though her Medical Mondays posts can sometimes make one nervous, they are absolutely informative and an eye opener. Lydia graciously agreed to this author interview and she sent the email back within half an hour. I am sure she has a time turner, that is the secret of all the things she can do in a day.

Q.  Tell us a little about your YA sci-fi novel Control?

A. It’s a near-future, soft sci-fi novel about a 17 y/o girl, Zelia, who loses her only family left—her sister—and needs the help of a foster home full of illegal, genetic freaks to help her. Oh, and she maybe falls in love too!

Q.  Where does inspiration for your characters come from?

A. Out of my head. Some classic romatic relationships (like in Austen, Bronte) often inspire me. Others, I just literally write down a list. This person is going to look like this, be humorous, look like a jock, but have a secret soft spot too. Stuff like that.

Q.  I read in your bio that you work part time as a primary care internal medicine physician. How do you balance your medical duties with your writing schedule?

A. I am lucky in that I work part time as a doctor. My writing takes over every other corner of my life outside of being a doctor and having a family.

Q.  Are you a plotter or a panster?  How long does it take you to write the first draft?

A. I plot my novels; I pants the scenes. As the years go by, I’m finding that my first drafts take longer and longer. My inner editor won’t shut up; but as a result, my revisions are not nearly as bad as they used to be. Right now, a first draft might take me 4 months. (Compared to the first novel I ever wrote—one month!)

Q. What is your writing schedule like? Do you have a word count you tackle everyday? Or do you go by the number of hours you clock in?

A. I try to write 10,000 words a week, in first draft mode. In truth, it may range from 4000 words to 12,000 words. (those 4000 word weeks usually have some writer’s block/plot issues going on)

Q. How was your journey to getting an agent? Any query tips for my readers?

A. For all the down and dirty details, I blogged about my querying journey here:
My tips would be to keep your query letter under 300 words, have a killer hook, and don’t tell your whole plot, just limit it to what happens in the first 50 pages and lay out the stakes of the novel. Oh, and grow a very, very thick skin.

Q.  Is there a writing craft book you cannot do without?

A. No, not one. I’ve taken a little bit from various books and blogs to help me write.

Q.  What are you working on now?

A. I’m tweaking a MG novel (a magic dystopian) and trying to finish the sequel to CONTROL.

Q. How do you balance everything: your medical profession, writing, blogging and looking after your family?
Any time management skills you would like to share with my readers?

A. Oh boy. Well, blogging was hard to do three times a week, so I cut down to twice a week. My readership fell a little with that, but I feel so much more free now, so that was worth it. Doctoring takes up very specific times in my life, so there’s no wiggle room there. On my writing days, I try very hard to actually write, and not waste my time. I also write late at night, and am sleep deprived M-F. I  make it up on weekend mornings when my kids wake up and get their own breakfast. Though I loved it when my kids were babies and little toddlers, my sleep deprivation is way more in control now that they have a little independence.

Thank you, Rachna, for having me over on your lovely blog! You’ve been a blogging friend almost since I started blogging, and I love your writing posts!

About Lydia: Lydia is a doctor, blogger, mom, and author. Her YA sci-fi book, CONTROL, will be out summer 2013 from Dial Books (Penguin). She is ravenously omnivorous and has a salt-tooth. She’s also strong for her size, kind of like an ant.

Thank you Lydia, for this amazing peek into your writing life.