Tuesday, November 2, 2010

When in Trouble, Summon your Favourite Author

While working on my current WIP,  before I could plunge my protagonist into troubled  shark infested water, I ended up putting myself in it. I had chosen a  theme that was unusual and different. Creating  a world class mischief maker  is not a joke. I never play pranks and  to be honest, I have no connection with pranksters.

 I seldom discuss my books with anyone, especially while writing the first draft. So I found myself in  a self dug hole. I badly needed guidance. When I  told my nephew few pranks to check out their potency, he  said “you have read so many Roald Dahl books,  you should be able to do justice to your book. Think like him.” I had introduced him to Dahl when he was eight.

At that moment things slid into place. I decided why not. I could  summon Dahl, and  pretend that he was writing my book whenever I got stuck. What prank would  Dahl  pull  in this scene, how would he tackle that situation, what devious idea would he come up with. Everytime I got stuck, I pleaded with Mr Dahl to help me out.

After that it was easy, I breezed through portions I  had earlier found difficult and troublesome. Hopefully my editor too finds them  nice. My fingers are crossed.

 I think this advice would work  well for all of us. I chose the author who wrote middle grade fiction (  the genre I write). I am sure we all have our  favourites in the genres we write, and I am sure we are familiar with their style and technique. So why not get into their skin when we find ourselves in tight spots, or at dead ends. It’s not like we are copying them. It’s just a way to work out those tangled knots and if and when we choose we can rewrite later.

 The best thing about this idea was that I  could see the book from my favourite writer’s perspective.  Having read all  Dahl’s books twice, I was pretty familiar with his humor and style. It was easy to get into his skin, and  invite him into my life to help me tide over those treacherous  and troublesome paths. Though the writing style is mine,  the thoughts are mine, the ideas are mine,  but just by trying to think like him  helped me  whenever I tied myself  in tight knots. It was like he was guiding me towards the direction I must take or untying the knots for me.

How do you all tackle those tricky spots that come up while you are writing? Whom do you turn to? Is there something  that helps you bypass those roadblocks? Is there someone who helps you navigate those tricky bends? Please share, we all badly need to learn those tips.

P.S. I will not be posting on Friday 5th November as its Diwali (our Festival of  Lights). I will see you all next Tuesday.

A Must Read for all  Writers is a post  Inspirations, which  I read  at Adventures in Agentland .


  1. What a wonderful idea, Rachna. Will surely try it out. Its a new way of thinking ourselves out of the tricky knots we find ourselves in.

  2. You owe your nephew a debt of gratitude. :) I'm glad he mentioned this to you. When we read lots (as authors do), we pick up words, and even sentences from our favorite books that go into our writing. It's still our voice, it's just inevitable that this will happen.

    I just read when I'm in a situation like this. Read my favorite authors in my genre and before you know it the light bulb goes off. That's the best advice. And do writing prompts. They help me a lot. :)

  3. Interesting post. I hadn't thought of channeling my favorite authors. I tend to rely on research. Probably too much. I should try other methods and this is a good one.

    Thanks for the award! I had commented on my blog yesterday, but then got distracted. I promise, I will do a post on the many rewards you and others have given me. I know I'm tardy. :( This whole year's overwhelmed me somehow.

  4. I had never thought of that Rachna. It is an interesting alternative. When I am at a dead end I turn to my critique group. We discuss various methods and character traits, plot twist, whatever is called for to fix the problem. I grew up without a father around. He was a traveling salesman, so I saw him for a week out of every five. And then he was gone when I was 13. Sometimes I have a hard time with my male characters motivation because of this. Thankfully, I have lots of male writer friends.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  5. I do this *raises hands* It's important for me to go over my work through my favorite authors eyes. Although her voice is slightly different, it helps needle through some issues nevertheless.

  6. Great post as usual, Rachna. I think we talked before about being afraid of 'copying' other authors' work. But as noted above, it is natural to want to emulate the work of your favorite authors (and isn't this a huge form of flattery?) And when you're simply 'thinking' like another author, adding your own words and spin, it does become uniquely yours. I think it's common for writers to base their work off of the 'tried and true.' Your advice is a great reminder for when we do get stuck! For me, when I get into a bind, I go to my trusted writing partner. We seem to be able to bounce ideas off one another with great efficiency. And, she's quite the prankster ... maybe next time you can talk with her :-)? I tweeted your post out to my followers!

  7. What a smart nephew you have! That is a great idea, and one I will remember. Thanks for sharing! Have a happy weekend:)

  8. Great post, Rachna, and wise advice! I actually tried that approach with my latest chapter book, which is set in late Victorian England. I visited a favorite English author from my childhood, Edith Nesbit, solely to get an English flavor for the dialogue, and also to revisit her wonderfully quirky humor. It helped me through some tricky scenes, and you are right, Rachna, it doesn't steal another's style or anything like that. It's more like turning a favorite author into a critique partner.

  9. That's a new trick! What would Timothy Zahn do...?

  10. I think that's part of why it's good to read LOTS. We gain inspiration, not just from a chosen author, but from unexpected places as well :)
    Good tip :)

  11. This is a great suggestion! That is wonderful that you were able to get inspiration from one of your favorite authors.

  12. What great advice! I love reading great books by my favorite authors, and this is one of the reasons why. Thank you!

  13. This post is so apt because I was having a conversation about Roald Dahl last night with a friend who's never read any Roald Dahl. I was like, "What do you mean you've never ready Roald Dahl?!" I adore his work.

    I'm glad that channeling him helped you. Sometimes it does help to channel a favourite authen when writing a particular scene or character.


  14. Hmm, I never thought of doing this but it's a great idea for the next time I get stuck. Thanks Rachna!
    Enjoy your holiday!

  15. Thanks for this lovely post, Rachna. I LOVE READING YOUR BLOG.

    Wishing you a very Happy Diwali!

  16. I love Roald Dahl!! He was a huge part of my childhood and soon, my children's.
    When I get stuck, with my poetry, I read more poetry. Usually it's e.e. humming or Robert Frost. They get my juices flowing!!
    Hope you had a lovely holiday!