Friday, April 24, 2015

The 11 Commandments of a Writer

Writing like any other profession has certain rules which writers should and must follow. I have made a list of commandments every writer should follow.

1. I shall not write to suit trends. Trends come and go. But the story in my heart that drives my passion, will endure.

2. I will not copy or lift ideas from another writer. I will work on my own ideas and if by chance I choose a theme/story/idea that has been done by other writers, I will give it my individual twist.

3. I will make Google my best friend and do all my research honestly and to the best of my ability.

4. I will worship my muse. Whenever the muse appears, I will pay him/her undivided attention and write. Maybe even offer ice-creams and chocolates and whichever other bribes work.

5. I will not stalk editors or agents on any Social-Networking platforms. Or act clingy by liking all their statuses and pictures. Or offer them home-cooked meals or pick and drop their children from school. Rather, I will ensure my writing is good enough to get me noticed.

6. I will get a critique group or maybe a couple of critique partners as critiquing is the easiest and the best way to grow as a writer, both giving as well as receiving critiques.

7. I will revise my manuscript until the Gods of Revision get bored of me and beg me to let them go.

8. I will be nice to other writers by buying their books: to read as well as give away as gifts, as this is good for the publishing industry. I will not invite bad karma by trashing their stories in my reviews.

9. I will expand my horizon by reading books. I will read atleast a dozen odd books in a year.

10. I will become a member of atleast one library in my area.

11. I will not be a sulky, grumpy writer who bad-mouths editors and agents who reject my manuscript/s or write nasty letters to them.

Any commandments you all want to add?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Why do we read?

Someone asked me that as a writer I must be reading a lot. I said yes. Even before I started writing, I would read a lot. As a child I spent my summer holidays devouring books, like a book monster. Finishing off a pile of books in a jiffy.

Many people think that we writers read to copy ideas from other writers. I completely disagree with that thought. We read because we love stories and love to disappear in another writer’s words and the world they have created with their stories. We read not to lift ideas, or to get creatively inspired by other writers. We read books because we crave new experiences, because we want to soak in new cultures, learn about different people. We read because we love stories.

I remember what my writing friend Elizabeth Varadan said about reading. “Reading is like doing homework for writers. Homework that we love doing everyday and look forward to when its not there.” She advised me “For every word we write, we must read atleast a thousand and more. Only then will our words make a difference.”

We hone our craft when we read extensively, we also learn from other writers’ success and failures. The more we read, the more critical we become. I love to read: every genre and age group. But I don’t read much non-fiction. I am planning to change that by reading a few non-fiction books.

I have noticed that all great writers are voracious readers. No, they are not sizing up the competition, but expanding their literary horizons and improving their literary flexibility. The more we read, the more familiar we get with words and plots and story arcs. Reading grooms us into better writers. It adds to our vocabulary, enhances our skills and ofcourse not just educates us, but entertains us as well.

What about you all?  Why do you all read books? Do you believe that it is important for writers to read?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Why writers have to be active partners with publishers in selling their books?

The days of a writer writing a book, polishing it, sending it to publishers, getting a contract, seeing the published book, going on to work on their next book, have long since gone. Today, publishers want a book that arrives at their posh offices wearing a suit and a tie (please don’t forget the pant and shirt). They want a polished manuscript, edited until it shines like a cluster of diamonds. The shiny manuscript must be accompanied by a reputed agent.

Independent publishers are upfront with writers, some indie publishers want authors to pick half the copies of their first print run, while others want the writer to take their books in place of royalty payments. Yes, this happened to a writer I know. She said that she preferred payment, however small it was. Another writer had to pick half the copies of the first print run which she donated to various school libraries. She was so thrilled to see her book in print that she had no qualms about picking up the copies herself.

The big six publishers ofcourse pay an advance, however small or big it maybe. But they like the authors to be active participants in selling the books. Meaning having a Facebook page, blog, Twitter account, and other social networking accounts. Today writers play an overactive role in promoting their books, from the day they sign the contract.

Actually, one can’t blame the publishers. With publishing budgets being tightened, bookshops closing down and newspapers reducing the number of pages that carry book reviews, it becomes important for writers to be active participants in promoting their books. Writers must plug in all their social contacts to talk of their books, buy their books, hold contests, tweet, facebook and anything else they can do. The more copies sold, the more viable the author becomes.

A writer I know, sent copies of her books to several book review sites. She is also keeping a track of all the awards that her book can be nominated for. As nothing perks up a book’s sales as much as an award.

What are all the things you are doing to be active participants in your book sales? What is your book promotion strategy?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

IWSG Post – Making sense of all the Feedback/Rejections

It’s time for another IWSG Post. Insecure Writers Support Group is an online group of writers (a wonderful and supportive writing community) posting on the first Wednesday of every month. IWSG is a place where we members can talk away our writing worries and anxieties, may be grumble about the injustice of the publishing journey. We are confident that other writers grappling with similar issues and insecurities are in the same rocky boat. IWSG is not just about venting out our writerly frustrations, it’s also a place where we can learn, grow, support and encourage each other to keep writing, inspite of all the odds stacked against us.

Ninja Captain, Alex J Cavanaugh (the author of the Amazon Bestsellers: CassaStar, CassaStorm and CassaFire and the upcoming Dragon of the Stars ) created this awesome and inspiring group. The IWSG website is a wonderful resource for writers.

My awesome co-hosts for the April 1 posting of the IWSG are Suzanne Furness,Tonja Drecker, Toi Thomas, Fundy Blue and Donna Hole.

I have been hearing a lot of grouses from Indian writers who are my online pals. For a writer querying and submitting directly to commissioning editors like we Indian writers do, all the feedback we get on our submissions can be quite a mystery. Trying to analyse just what the editor meant can take its toll on the writer’s mental, emotional and psychological health.

Feedback like “our publishing list is full at this time,” in a nutshell means “I really don’t have the time to read my slush pile.”

Feedback like “this is not right/suitable for our list” is easy to interpret. Your book sucks and our list too will suck if we publish this book.

Then there is the back-handed compliment feedback. “Though I enjoyed your story I didn’t fall in love with it.” I would interpret it to mean that though your story idea is good, the writing style is just not my cup of tea.

A brush the writer away like a fly feedback would be to say “we are looking for dark books” if the writer has sent a cute and funny one, and the opposite if the writer has sent a dark book.

Then there is the puzzling feedback: “Your main character’s name is Tina, we want a Rina.” This leaves the writer scratching his/her head.

Let’s not forget this feedback: “Your book reminds me of another book.” This feedback is easy to understand, it just means I am not going to bother reading the pages based on the premise. But, if you are a best-selling writer I will even publish a poor derivative book of yours. I am not wasting my time for a newbie.

Trust me, the poor writer needs a heavy dose of therapy and counselling to make sense of all the feedback and to get back their writing morale. Best thing would be to just forget and move on.

Have you ever received a feedback that has confused the hell out of you?