Friday, December 19, 2014

Holiday Plans, Blogging Break, Writing and Reading List

2014 has flown by at the speed of lightning. It has also been a year that has thrown the maximum surprises in my life: both professionally and personally. I have enjoyed both the highs as well as the lows (there was so much to learn from the lows). I have met some amazing people this year. I have also read some wonderful books.

All the writing lessons I have learnt gave me the courage to revise two manuscripts, write a third one and charter unknown territories where my writing was concerned.

From the past several weeks I have been on a heavy duty book promotion spree and have visited several schools as a part of Author Interactive Sessions. It’s been amazing meeting my adorable readers (the students) and interacting with the teachers and the school principals. Needless to say, I have been ignoring my own writing.

I desperately want to go away to the mountains, but as there are no such no holiday plans to travel anywhere, I will be home bound and writing a lot over Christmas and New Year as well as catching up with my reading.

 I am also taking a blogging break till January 2015. I will be back with the first IWSG post of 2015 on January 7th.

Though I won’t be blogging, I will still be lurking around and stalking all of you and seeing who eats the most cake and pudding and who parties the most!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, a very Happy New Year and a relaxed holiday in advance. Hope 2015 fulfills all our dreams and desires and is a wonderful year for everyone in every way.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Choosing names for our characters

I find choosing names for my characters an extremely difficult task. For my initial stories, I took the easy way out by naming only the main and secondary characters. These names were chosen at random; the first name that popped into my head became a character’s name.

But all this changed the day I got a call from a publisher saying that they were interested in publishing my books. After the contract was signed, my editor sat down with me to brainstorm names for every character, even characters whose claim to fame was a solitary appearance in my illustrated books for children. My editor was very firm that readers, especially children, bond with characters and it’s absolutely necessary to give them names. My editor had said that “nameless characters will never become memorable.”                
When my story was commissioned for a puffin anthology several years back, the puffin editor called me to ask for few changes in my story, before winding up she asked me why I hadn’t named the watchman’s cat. For me she was just the watchman’s cat : a nameless creature. Not only was I clueless regarding how to answer her question, but there was also silence from my side. How was I supposed to think of a name during a phone conversation. “Can I go with the name I have chosen,” she asked? The name hater that I was I agreed to go along with the name she suggested. Anything to avoid that task.

But all that has changed now. Perhaps the change has come when readers tell me that they identified with Leo, Bunny, Caspar, Kiara (the names of the characters in my earlier books). This appreciation has worked as a major incentive to name all the characters.

For the books I have written now, I take the trouble to give the characters nice and unique names. I even research the names.

I decided that just naming every character wouldn’t be enough. They were given individual personalities to match the names. Each name conjured up an image of the teacher or a student fitting that name. Nowadays I am always on the lookout for new names.

What about you all? Do you name your characters with the first name that jumps into your mind, or are these names the product of a meticulous research and hard work. Do you have any name tips to share with us?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

IWSG Post – Fear of Lack of Time

This will be the last IWSG (Insecure Writers Support Group) post for 2014. Next year will bring an entire new set of anxieties, worries, fears and doubts. IWSG has become my favourite place to air my writerly concerns. Here I can freely talk about my doubts, fears, worries and insecurities without being judged or laughed at. Because I know that many of you all must be battling the same fears.

IWSG started by Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh (the author of the Amazon Bestsellers: CassaStar, CassaStorm and CassaFire) posts on the first Wednesday of every month. IWSG is an online group of writers where we all share our doubts, fears and insecurities as well as support and encourage each other. The IWSG website is a wonderful resource for writers.

This month my fear is lack of time. I read somewhere that a writer gets the maximum amount of time to write their first book, after that there are sundry things occupying a writer’s life space: book tours, book signing events, author interactive sessions etc.

I worry that I am not getting enough time to devote to my next book. If I am not going on school visits organized by my publisher (Scholastic), then I am attending a writing related event or managing the million and one things a published author does, or catering to my family duties, or managing my online presence, completing the book reviews for the paper. The little time I can steal from life I devote to writing.

Day by day my writing time is becoming less and less. I feel I may not do justice to my next set of books. I hope this is just a passing phase and I get more time to write in future.

Does anyone else feels like this? How do you handle the lack of time to write?

P.S. IWSG has brought out a book The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond. The book is available free for everyone. Check the IWSG website for details on where to download it.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Writing tips I have learned till now

This week I had no time to even think of what I would blog about as I had another school visit today (it was awesome) and had to critique a book and review 5 books for the newspaper. I will share the details about my visit to D.P.S (Delhi Public School) in one of my future posts.

Writers across the spectrum share their tips on how to become a better writer. From writing the first draft to revising and editing tips. Every tip is designed to make us better writers. All my blog buddies are brilliant writers, so I don't need to remind them of anything. I am just sharing my thoughts.

1. First drafts should be just the writer and the story. Nothing else should matter. Just get the story out should be every writer’s motto.

2. The main character should be given a few flaws. Readers will identify better with imperfect characters as it reminds them of their own shortcomings.

3. The supporting characters should be strong, preferably with a sub-plot, goals and their own lessons they have to learn in the course of the story.

4. The antagonist needs to be a strong, literally the bad half of the protagonist, its evil twin. Weak protagonists will send out weak vibes which neither build stakes nor increase conflict and tension.

5. There should be atleast two confrontations between the protagonist and the antagonist before the final confrontation happens. This will keep the readers glued to the pages.

6. Don’t just end each chapter on a cliffhanger, introduce a new complication in each chapter. This will keep the interest high throughout the book.

7. Keep reminding the readers of the stakes which are increasing chapter by chapter. Let the readers get a sense of urgency that the protagonist is feeling.

8. Learn the fine art of secrets. Keep some secrets from the protagonist, a few from the antagonist and some from the readers. Not all of them should know everything.

9. Reveal backstory little by little. Avoid info dumping. At each point in the story, only the backstory that will help that scene should be highlighted (I learnt this lesson a little late, my earlier books were info dumps).

10. Pay attention to the descriptions. Animate the scenes with lively descriptions which make the scene come alive in a reader’s mind. Remember to use all the five senses while describing scenes.

11. Concentrate on building that crucial voice: seeing things in a way that readers remember long after they have finished reading the book.

12. Work on settings so that it becomes a character by itself.

13. Don’t ever forget the power of a strong outline. Get the beginning, middle and end very clear in your mind. Be a panster while writing the individual scenes, but plot out the big story.

14. Work on getting the dialogues right. Listen to how people talk, the way they ask questions, the way they answer, the accents they have. Use all this info in your dialogue writing.

15. Never forget the rule of writing daily. If you start ignoring your writing/story, then the story starts playing truant. Even something as less as 500 words a day will help you get to the end of the story fast.

Any writing lesson you all want to add? Feel free to add them in the comments. In one of my next posts I will compile all the lessons into one blog post.

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to all my blog buddies!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Author Interactive sessions with students

I have been missing in action on the blogosphere from one week as I have been busy with Interactive Sessions with students, which has been arranged by my publishers Scholastic India. This week, I have visited 3 schools and had four sessions with students.

It’s been amazing meeting the Principals, students and the teachers of all these schools. The children have been super enthusiastic, super eager and super energetic. Reading a few pages of my story and talking to them has been an experience I will remember all my life.

Fun Moments from my visit to Edify School. This boy was one of the cutest boys I have met. He ran up to me to take my autograph. I asked him his name. “Yuvraj,” he said. When I gave him my autograph, he said “Wow, you know the spelling of my name.” I was like dude, I am a writer, I know lots of spellings. Then the boy told me that many people get his spelling wrong. This is the second time someone has spoken to me about spellings, the first was my English teacher in school.

Most of the kids were delighted to meet an author. They all would walk up to me and practically want to touch me to check whether I was a real person or an illusion. Many children would stand close to me and whisper in my ears.

Today which is Children’s Day I visited two more schools. It was very hectic and tiring. I have taken a break from visiting schools for a week as I have to dedicate time to read Mark Noce (my critique Partner’s MS) as well as revise one ms of mine and polish another one.

This week, starting from today I will be visiting you all to catch up with what you all have been up to behind my back. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

IWSG Post – Doubts and Insecurities

I look forward to the IWSG (Insecure Writers Support Group) post on the first Wednesday of every month.  It’s one place I can freely talk about my doubts, fears, worries and insecurities without the fear of being judged. Because I know that many of you all must be battling the same fears.

IWSG has been started by Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh (the author of the Amazon Bestsellers: CassaStar, CassaStorm and CassaFire).  IWSG is an online group of writers where we all learn from each other and also share our doubts, fears and insecurities as well as support and encourage other writers. The IWSG website is a wonderful resource for writers.

This month I was suddenly stuck with doubts regarding my books. I don’t know why the worries swamped me. Worries whether my bigger books (currently sitting inside several publishers’ laptops) will be liked by the readers. Will the editors love the stories and want to publish them? What will the other writers think of my stories and characters? What will the critics and reviewers think of my writing and plot? Will all of them think that I suck at writing?

Trust me all these worries gave me a nightmare or two. Then, I tried to shrug it off, which is easier said than done, that all writers go through this. That these insecurities come with the territory. I am plodding on with my next lot of books, but somewhere deep inside my mind these doubts are flying around.

Do you all have such doubts and insecurities? How do you fight these feelings? I would love to learn how other writers tackle these feelings.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Reading, Writing and Tweeting

In the last few days I have been busy with revising an old manuscript, completing another draft of my current one, reading lots of books, as well as finding my way around Twitter. Amidst all these hectic activities I was unable to plot and outline my new story with which I wanted to join NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

I had a feeling that if I had a decent outline I may have been able to complete the first draft (that is write 50,000 words) in the 30 days of November. 

Unfortunately, my previous manuscript, research for the current one, Diwali celebrations and my joining Twitter waylaid my best laid plans. I consoled myself that I would take the NaNo plunge next year. That for the last two months of the year I would work on Scavage (remember my book on street dogs) and get it ready, complete with a query letter and a synopsis and start querying for it after a couple of months.

On my regular morning walks I suddenly remembered that I had another manuscript in my laptop. Hope you all remember the trilogy that I had mentioned. I have written quite a few scenes, even the ending, before I abandoned it last year.

Well, throughout November I will be working on Scavage, getting it into a kickass shape (hopefully, my fear of dogs has not affected my writing) and seeing where the first book of the Sorequil Trilogy is heading. I hope to get a lot of writing done in November.

As for Twitter, I am quite enjoying it. I completed one and a half months of Tweeting.

What about you all? What are your November plans? Anything special you are working on next month?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Happy Diwali

I am posting a day earlier as its Diwali today and I will be taking it easy over the weekend catching up with family and friends.

Happy Diwali to all of you. 

May the Divine Lamp light your path to Peace, Happiness, Health and Success.

With the Gleam of Diyas and the Echo of the Chants, may contentment fill your life!

Friday, October 17, 2014

All my writing related mistakes

It’s normal to make mistakes in everything we do. Life is all about learning from one’s mistakes. My writing career is littered with the many mistakes I have made, especially when it comes to my books.

For a long time I submitted the first book I had written, to many Indian publishers. That was more than 10 years back. It was much later I realized that I was flogging a dead horse. Once I pushed that manuscript in my drawer as a hopelessly lost cause, I was at peace. All the anxiety faded away.

Another mistake I made was by querying agents just because they repped MG books. I had no inkling about an agent’s personal reading taste or choice. As the rejections piled up, so did my disappointment. It was only later when one of my blog buddies pointed out that I should query an agent only if they represented my kind of a book. Else, all I would see were rejections.

Another mistake I made when I submitted to Indian publishers was not submitting simultaneously. Simultaneous submissions cut the waiting time for us writers and also make us widen our search.

Depending on one book for too long is a mistake I hope to never repeat. Nowadays, once I am done with one book, I move on to the next one immediately as one never knows which book will capture an agent or editor’s attention.

Follow up is not my strong point as I don’t want to come across as pushy. But it’s a must when it comes to Indian Publishers. Unless and until we follow up we never get replies.

Personalizing the query to a specific agent. Though I never sent bulk queries starting with Dear Agent, I didn’t personalize it either. Nowadays I research an agent, read all their interviews, try to see what books they have repped, check them on Twitter and then mould my query so that it doesn’t look as though I am sending queries at random.

Whew! That’s a whole lot of mistakes, right? I hope never to repeat these mistakes again.

What about you all? Care to share your writing related mistakes so we can all learn from it?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Lessons I have learnt from my current WIP

Every WIP (Work in Progress) teaches a writer lots of things. Things that the writer would not have learnt if they hadn’t worked on this particular story. My current WIP- Scavage, about street dogs was a troublesome kid. All through the first draft I had just one thought running through my mind: that I can’t write this story. I am so scared of dogs that when I see dog I run faster than an Olympic medallist. It was natural that I would take my own sweet time to finish the first draft.

Several times during the writing of this book my muse deserted me. During those days I caught up with my other writing and kept postponing the deadline for this story. And I deviated wildly from my original outline with the introduction of a few new characters who snatched the story from my hands and took it in a different direction.

One fine day I said enough is enough. I am the writer. I need to get the story written. And written fast. I sat down and rewrote the outline adding the new characters, warned my muse not to irritate me and wrote the remaining scenes. For reference there was always YouTube.

After the first draft, I moved on to the second draft. Finishing the second draft of this book has made me super happy. Now, I have distanced myself from the story for a few days, to let it stew in its own creative juices. I am working on my first YA book.

This book taught me several lessons. A writer has to be flexible as characters become headstrong halfway through the story and want the story to go in a different direction from the originally outlined one. Another lesson was that the muse is never obedient and that a writer should never depend on the muse and write inspite of an absentee muse. Last but not the least, only if the writer has written the first draft can he start playing magician with the story; adding plot twists, descriptions, character traits, suspense and humor.

What has your current WIP taught you? Did your characters develop a mind of their own halfway through the story?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

IWSG Post – Deviating from the original outline

Its time for another IWSG (Insecure Writers Support Group) post. IWSG founder Ninja Captain: Alex Cavanaugh started IWSG with the aim of creating a support group for writers at different stages of their publishing journeys. IWSG members post on the first Wednesday of every month. We share our anxieties, doubts, fears and worries, and help, encourage and support other writers. IWSG has a website which is full of helpful information for writers. And now IWSG will be bringing out a book ‘The Insecure Writer’s Support Group to Publishing and Beyond.’

My Insecurity for this month is Deviating from the original Outline. Though I always have a rough outline on paper, but, when I start writing, I tend to deviate from that outline. Then I keep tweaking the outline to incorporate the new scenes. Sometimes, the outline has changed quite a bit when I add a new character, scenes or take unexpected twists and turns in the story which were not in the original outline.

That makes me half-plotter, half-panster. I am seldom able to stick to my initial outline. Because the moment I start writing, fresh ideas, characters, scenes and twists and turns start dancing in my mind. These were not a part of the original outline.

Now that is making me a bit anxious. Because my final outline is quite different from the initial outline. Even when I plot in detail, while writing my characters start whispering in my ears quite a bit. And I do tend to listen to them.

Do you all have this problem of deviating from your original outlines? How do you tackle that?

Monday, September 29, 2014

My Interview at Richard’s Blog

When one of my good blog buddies Richard P Hughes asked me whether I would be interested in doing a guest interview on his blog, I agreed instantly. I found the idea ‘Where I live and why I like it’ not just unusual but also very interesting.

Richard has an amazing blog where he shares all about creativity, growing old, growing young, self-publishing, freedom, the craft of writing, art and many other topics of interest.

I would appreciate it if you hop over to Richard’s blog and support us with your comments.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Underrated treasures blogfest

I seldom participate in blogfests, because more often than not I miss out the blogfest announcements. And by the time I come to know it’s too late to join and do justice to the theme. Luckily for me, I came to know about the Underrated Treasures Blogfest the moment my good friend Alex J Cavanaugh announced it on his blog. I joined immediately.

Everyone has a favorite movie/band/book/T.V Show, that no one else has ever heard about. For whatever reason, they remain undiscovered and underrated. Now is our chance to tell the world about this obscure treasure. 

I will talk about two books that I feel everyone should read. Both the books are my eternal favourites.

I am sure quite a few of my Indian blog buddies must have heard about the book ‘Autobiography of a Yogi.’ Written by Paramahansa Yogananda, it has been translated into more than 30 languages and is considered one of the 100 Best Spiritual Books of the Twentieth Century.

In the book Paramahansa Yogananda tells the inspiring chronicle of his life: the experiences of his childhood, his encounters with many saints and sages during his youthful search throughout India for an illumined teacher, his  spiritual experiences, his ten years of training in the hermitage of a revered yoga master, and the thirty years that he lived and taught in America.

While reading the book I had goosebumps many times when certain incidents were narrated. Paramahansa Yogananda takes a deep look at the ultimate mysteries of human existence. He explains the subtle but definite laws behind both the ordinary events of everyday life and the extraordinary events commonly termed miracles. I am planning to read this book again sometime in the future. Its a book I would recommend to everyone, even those who have no interest in saints and mystics.

The second book I feel is an undiscovered gem is ‘Caravan to Tibet’ by Deepa Agarwal. When I picked up this book, because of its simplistic cover and title, I had no great expectations from it. And thank God for that. The book surpassed all my expectations.
The book is about fourteen-year-old Debu’s search for his missing father. His father travelling with a caravan of traders from Kumaon (India) to Tibet has  gone missing.  When Debu sees a Tibetan trader in the local market wearing an amulet remarkably similar to his father’s, he is convinced that his father is alive. Debu joins the next caravan to Tibet to look for his father. After that the adventures flow thick and fast: Debu is forced to stay in a monastery with a young lama who takes a fancy to him, his capture by a band of bandits led by the cruel, mysterious Nangbo gifted with magical powers and a stay in the goldfields of Thok Jalong. The thrilling horse race is one of the highlights of the book. Debu’s character was very endearing and I connected with him right in the first few pages.
I am looking forward to visiting the other blogs and getting familiar with many Underrated Treasures.
P.S. Thank you Ninja Captain for this amazing blogfest.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Finally I joined the Twitter bandwagon

After procrastinating for a very, very, long time, I finally took the Twitter Plunge. The reason I delayed my entry onto the Twitter bandwagon was due to the fact that I did not know what I would tweet about. To tweet or not to tweet was my dilemma!

This week I finally made up my mind and decided to join twitter. On Wednesday, my favourite day of the week (two days down and two more to go for the weekend, that’s why I love Wednesdays) I quietly created my Twitter Profile. And also hesitantly made a few tweets. And followed a few close blog buddies. So far so good. I have survived two days on Twitter without making a fool of myself.

As it’s a new platform for me, I am concerned about my ability to handle it. And I also hope and pray that Twitter does not take over my time. That I get sufficient time to write and work on my stories.

Here is my Twitter handle.

For those of my blog buddies who are on Twitter, any tips, suggestions and advice for me? Do I have to follow everyone who follows me? What shall I tweet about? How often should I tweet? 

Friday, September 12, 2014

When a character/s hijacks your story

As I am half-plotter and half- panster, I always have a rough idea of the beginning of my stories, the middle and the end. I am a plotter where the basic outline is concerned and a panster where the individual scenes are concerned. It was the same situation for my current WIP- Scavage, about a pack of wild street dogs. I had a basic plot outline in mind about how the story would start, the scenes that would constitute the middle and how it would end. I was quite happy with my rough plot outline. For a change I had the entire plot mapped out and I started writing the first draft.

Then, I really don’t know why I introduced three new characters (who literally jumped out of the blue). Trust me when I say that these characters caught hold of my hand and made me include them in the story. These three adorable characters not only clamoured to get their stories heard but they have also hijacked my plot in another direction. Right now I am staring at my computer screen with a zombie look wondering where did my plot disappear.

Now I am in a big dilemma. Should I leave these characters alone and go back to my original outline or should I write a new outline incorporating these three characters? I am seriously miffed with myself.

Do you all have any advice for me? How do you handle such situations? What do you all suggest I do?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

IWSG Post – Tackling the feeling of not being good enough

I look forward to the IWSG posts every month. IWSG, a support group for writers started by Ninja Captain Alex Cavanaugh posts on the first Wednesday of every month. We encourage and support other writers through our posts as well as talk of our insecurities, fears, anxieties and doubts. It’s very cathartic, venting out our feelings before other writers. For one they completely understand us and second they offer suggestions and advice which helps us cope. You can check out the IWSG website. To read the other posts click here.

This month I am going to talk of the feeling that all writers undergo. The feeling that we are not good enough. Every writer has faced this feeling at some point or the other. Especially when they have just read an awesome book that left their jaws crashing to the ground. After the brilliant book has been read, we are accosted with a feeling that we will never be able to write such a book. This feeling is also triggered by rejection.

This feeling of not being good enough also hits us when we are bamboozled with an entire host of writing advice: ranging from creating page turning stories, memorable characters which readers remember for a long, long time, ending each chapter on a cliff hangar, introducing surprise twists and turns, nailing that elusive voice, keeping the stakes high at all times and grabbing the readers eyeballs on every page.

Whew! That’s quite an achievement for one book. Keeping all this in mind, we work and work and work lots more on our stories ensuring that every bit of advice is followed and bettered.

Have you all ever felt that you aren’t good enough? How do you all tackle this feeling?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Coming up with unusual book titles and character names

From the time I was studying in college, my journalism lecturer would tell me that though she loved my features and other writing, she thought that I lost out by giving them dull titles. Though I tried hard I could never come up with exciting, interesting or intriguing titles. Titles always gave me trouble.

When I started writing my books, this title torture turned into a nightmare when I had to think of suitable names for all my characters. For middle grade fiction based in schools there were a truckload of characters to name. And trust me when I tell you that, it aint easy giving so many characters interesting names.

For my MG book Academy for PRANKS, I took the smart way out. As the academy had students from all over the world, I researched for names and surnames popular in all the countries. This was the only time I had fun hunting for names.

The only two book titles I am completely happy with are Slunky Doodle (the book currently languishing in a few Indian publishers’ inbox) and Scavage (the book I am writing now). I thought bought these titles were quite interesting and unusual and easy to remember. I hope I am right.

When I read books like Shatter me, Mockingjay, Divergent, When you Reach me, Under the Never Sky, Before I fall, The beginning of everything, In the Path of Falling Objects, Thirteen reasons why, The fault in our stars, I feel sharp twinges of envy. How did all these authors come up with such amazing and interesting titles? Do these writers have some secret abilities that has passed us by?

How do you all manage to come up with unusual and interesting titles and character names? Or like me does this task make you nervous?

Picture Courtesy Bharathi Krishnamurthy

Friday, August 22, 2014

Running out of blog topics

This is my fourth year in blogging and to be honest I am running out of writing related topics. When I had started blogging, I had decided I will stick to a writing related blog. It was a conscious decision I had taken. I did not want to ramble on and on about things which would leave my readers and blog buddies disinterested or bored to tears. And for more than four years I was successful in maintain a writing related blog where I discussed all aspects of writing, publishing and books.

But, from the past few weeks I seem to be running out of topics. Maybe I have exhausted all the topics. Or maybe I have blog fatigue or perhaps I need to inject a new energy into my blog. Or it could also be due to work pressure which sees me scrambling at the last minute to come up with a decent post.

Once upon a long time back I was quite organized where my blog posts where concerned. I would schedule them a few days in advance. Nowadays, it’s a mad rush to get a few decent words typed out. I have run out of blogging inspiration. Day by day I am coming up with a shorter post. And that too just moments before I click on the publish button.

How do you all handle blog topic fatigue? How do you all come up with amazing topics? Any suggestions for me to beat this topic fatigue syndrome?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Struggling to balance everything

Guilt. The emotion that has caught me in its deathly grip. From the past few months I am feeling very guilty about missing in action in the blogosphere. Though I am posting once a week, it’s been quite a struggle coming up with a blog post. Most of my posts are last minute efforts. And let’s not even talk of visiting my blog buddies’ blogs and leaving a comment. I am unable to visit most of my regular blog buddies.

Sometimes I feel I am juggling too many balls in air, glass balls at that, and more often than not, it’s a struggle trying to keep all the balls safe. If I concentrate on my blog, I am losing out on reading books. If I read books then it’s my blog that feels ignored. If I am paying attention to my feature writing for the newspapers, I am late in correcting my students’ assignments. And when I correct piles of assignments, my manuscript is ignored.

And my current work in progress has been deserted from seven days. I am sure the characters are feeling left out and my muse must have gone away with his girlfriend leaving me absolutely uninspired. Even my reading fairy has disappeared. I haven’t read a single book from more than ten days.

I sometimes feel I am doing too much. I should concentrate on just a few things at a time. I have reduced my blogging days from twice a week to once a week. Even that has been further reduced. In the IWSG week, I skip my regular Friday posting. I have stopped playing Candy Crush (trust me that’s a huge tragedy), my long chats with my close friends has been drastically reduced (another big tragedy, but its saving me piles of money as the phone bills are pretty less now) I am doing everything to get more time to write.

The only thing I am sticking on to is my regular workout. If I had to skip that too, I would be one grumpy writer. Exercise energises me. I can’t do without it.

I am wondering how you all manage everything. Is there a time-turner you all possess? Are you all better at time-management than I am? Can someone please tell me how do they manage to get all their work done?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

IWSG Post – Trilogy Anxieties

Normally my IWSG post is scheduled atleast one week in advance. With so many things crowding my mind space, this month’s IWSG post had completely slipped my mind. If not for our omniscient Ninja Captain, Alex Cavanaugh, also the founder of IWSG, who came to know via telepathy that I had forgotten about it, so to make me (us) remember he mentioned it in his blog. Thank God for omniscient founders.

IWSG is a support group for writers which posts on the first Wednesday of every month. We encourage and support each other through our posts as well as talk of our insecurities, fears, anxieties and doubts. You can check out the IWSG website. To read the other posts click here.

From ages I have hopes that somewhere down the line I will write a trilogy. But, I am not one of the world’s greatest outliners. I prefer attacking a first draft than writing a detailed outline. Though I have a beginning, middle and end in mind when I start writing, I write quite a bit by the seat of my pants. For a trilogy, I am sure I will have to be a great outliner. Every small plot detail has to be meticulously planned. For that I would need to get a detailed plot outline written for all the three books.

I am anxious about the fact that my kind of writing style may not work for a trilogy. I am wondering how other writers tackle trilogies. Does anybody have any tips for me on how to handle a trilogy? For those who have written trilogies how did you manage? 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Adding real life incidents in our stories

This topic has been pecking my mind from quite some time. I am constantly thinking about it. Would it be right to add a real life incident into our stories? 

Would that make our story more realistic or would that be sensationalizing a delicate issue. Last month, a sexual assault on a 6 year old girl in her school in Bangalore sent shock waves all across the city. It led to protests, petitions and also a bandh yesterday.

What happened to that small girl was not only horrifying but tragic and traumatic as well. My heart bleeds for what she and her parents must have gone through. It’s like someone has snatched the little girl’s happy childhood and changed it with trauma and nightmare.

This morning due to rains I could not go for my usual morning walk. While lying in bed my mind frequently went to that girl. And suddenly a shiny new idea dropped heavily into my mind. The idea gripped me tightly while I was doing my workout. The shiny new idea involved a story about that girl. Even while I am writing this blog post my mind is throwing up several scenes.

I am wondering whether my working on this new idea would be cruel, I mean would it be me capitalizing on an incident or trying to sensationalize an issue. I know for certain that I would handle the topic/story very, very sensitively. There would be no frivolousness in it. But, it has me still worried. This is the first time a real life incident has generated a story idea in my mind.

What is your take on my predicament? Do think I should atleast outline the story and see where it takes me? Or should I just dismiss it off from my mind? What would you do in my place?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Making good progress

My current WIP which I have titled Scavage is progressing well.  All the research that I am doing online on dogs is throwing up several scenes in my mind. Initially, I was apprehensive about writing a book about dogs, that too street dogs. I am very scared of dogs. I thought I just could not do justice to this story.

But, as I ploughed through an outline, then did some research, my doubts were assuaged. I felt I could tackle this story. I did a brief outline and started writing the story. I feel better when I actually start the first draft. Unlike some writers, I don’t spend too much time outlining.

Two days back while writing a few scenes, I discovered two strong emotional hooks for my story. I have always felt that strong emotional hooks in a story make wonderful reader connections. I personally (as a reader) connect well with stories where the emotional layers and hooks are strong.

I have introduced 3 new characters. And believe it or not, the three small pups refuse to leave my mind space. I am constantly thinking about them. I am wondering where were they all this time.

How is your writing going? Which stage of writing are you all in? How much time do you spend outlining?

P.S. The idea for this book dropped into my mind when I was visiting Gary’s blog. A picture of his dog Penny threw this shiny new idea into my mind.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Getting back my reading groove

For quite some time, I had lost my reading groove. The pile of books on my reading list was threatening to bury me underneath it. And I am not even going to mention the books sitting inside my Kindle. I keep buying the Kindle version of books and managing to read just a few chapters of those books.

But from the past few days, the reading fairy has been very kind to me. I have been able to read quite a few books. And not just read them, my sub-conscious mind has been analyzing these stories for several elements.

I read Every Day by David Levithan. It’s a wonderful book and I enjoyed it very much. Infact, I am completely in awe of David Levithan’s writing abilities after reading this book. After that I read Wonder by R.J Palacio. Wonder has become one of my all time favourite books. And its protagonist- August Pullman, one of my favourite literary characters. This is one book everyone should read.

Then I read another lovely book The Tiffin by Mahtab Narsimhan. The protagonist of this book – Kunal wriggled his way into my heart. I loved every bit of this book. Now I am reading Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson. I am enjoying it. Maureen’s writing is amazing.

Getting back my reading groove has been wonderful. Nothing makes me as happy as reading a book. And if the story absorbs me, nothing like it.

What books are you reading now? Any book that you would like to recommend to us?

Friday, July 11, 2014

My book cover and crit partner’s good news

I consider myself predominantly a writer of middle grade fiction (for ages 9 to 14). I have always found picture books (for much younger readers) very difficult to write.  A couple of years back, when I was stuck while writing my middle grade fiction, I attempted three picture books. They were my attempts at trying out a picture book. I sent it to Scholastic India last year on a whim. I was surprised when they accepted it. I had written those stories for the fun of it. I was very sure no publisher would publish them.

Last year Scholastic confirmed that they would be publishing it and asked me to include scientific snippets. The book ‘Lazy worm goes on a journey’ was slated to go under the Early Science Category. After a round of editing it was sent out for illustrations. This year I got a good advance for it and the book hit the shelves last week. The book is in hard cover (something I always wanted.) I have to go for some school visits (I will let you all know how the visits go.)

It has been a good experience working with the Scholastic managing editor Tina Narang. Tina is an angel in disguise. She has patiently guided me every step of the way and answered all my questions regarding the contract, advance and other stuff and kept me in the loop where the illustrations, publishing and marketing of the book was concerned.

I have a good news to share with you all. My critique partner Mark Noce signed up with Rena Rossner of the The Deborah Harris LiteraryAgency (he has blogged about it). When I read the first chapter of Mark’s historical fiction ‘Between Two Fires,’ I emailed him that this book would definitely get him an agent. After I read the entire book I was sure of it. This was Mark’s third book I was critiquing. And I was stunned at the gigantic leap he had taken. The book is simply amazing. I don’t mean to say that his other books were not good, but this was by far his best (in every way). I am super excited and elated for Mark.

Do you all have any good news to share with all of us? Hope you all liked my book cover?