GuestPost: Five tips to smash that writer’s block

Do you suffer from writer’s block? I’ve been thinking of taking a break because writing is coming tougher to me nowadays for various reasons. A friend mentioned maybe it was a writer’s block. Since I’ve never fallen for the whole idea of a wall blocking your creative side, I thought I will write about it. And just then serendipitously I came across my wonderful author friend Andaleeb Wajid’s rather helpful blog on the same subject. Andaleeb is a superstar author who keeps churning out one fantastic book after another, while taking care of a vast family, doing workshops on creative writing and generally being a fantastic person. So if she’s talking about this block-monster-thingy, believe me she knows her stuff.  And this is what she suggests you do.


What’s this Writer’s Block?

If there’s one thing every other writer will tell you or post/tweet is that they’re facing a writer’s block at some point or the other in their writing career. Of course, if you are a writer, you know for a fact that writer’s block can strike you unawares and the novel that you were working on is no longer flowing from your finger tips on to the keyboard. This feeling of being stuck, of not being able to move forward is typical of writer’s block. But here’s a secret. Writer’s block doesn’t exist. What? Yes. It doesn’t. Writer’s block has more to do with your mental disposition at the point of time when you’re trying to write, rather than actually being the thing it is made out to be.

If Calvin and Hobbes can do it, so can you!

Over the past years as I’ve been writing my books there have been times when the words just didn’t seem right. There have been times when I haven’t felt like writing. A typical question that students I speak to, or interviewers ask is how I deal with writer’s block. This is how.

1. It’s in your mind. It doesn’t exist. Believe it.

By acknowledging that it does not exist. I try not to get discouraged and I certainly don’t label it as a writer’s block. Typically you may get this block either when you’re in the middle of writing something or you might find yourself unable to start something new. Continue reading “GuestPost: Five tips to smash that writer’s block”

5 life hacks for aspiring writers

Want to start on that first book? Aspire to get published? Here are a few tips for aspiring writers that I shared with Writersmelon.

Why do you want to write?

If you want to be a writer, the first thing that you need, which is I think a very individualistic thing, is the desire to write, the passion to create something new, to express a story, a character in a new way. I write because  characters crop up in my head and bang inside, demanding to be let out. I write because it’s addictive and I have no other choice. It’s the highest I’ve ever felt, and also the lowest. It’s hard, but I’m not going to leave it anytime soon.

Once you’ve keyed on this desire, it will drive you through the long, long process of gathering the skills and actually writing the whole thing. Ideas are easy to come by, getting the skill of writing is also not too difficult, but it’s this desire that makes all the difference. This motivation that comes from inside you, will discipline you, make sure you don’t give up halfway and will not let you rest till you complete the creative work. In that sense, it’s an intrinsic value.

A stranger browsing the book. Isn't that nice!
A stranger browsing the book. Isn’t that nice!

Finish that first draft

Don’t let your rational mind take over till you complete the first draft. Write with your instinct, write whatever you see the characters doing, just write without thinking too much. The only thing you can do is be true to your characters. Don’t let your opinion on life and your language leak through into the story, for the readers will know and they’ll not like it. After you have completed the first draft, edit, polish and edit again. Once you think it’s ready to be sent to a publisher, wait for a week. Edit again and send to the publisher. Don’t think of it as a hobby. Think of writing as your work. You have to do it everyday, even if you don’t feel like getting up from the bed. Write everyday, even if you are sad or not in the mood or don’t have time for it or can’t think of a single line to write. Write a portion everyday.

Continue reading “5 life hacks for aspiring writers”

The media on my latest novel on Manipal

I’m always both excited and panicked when a new novel is launched. It’s out there, with a lovely cover, and you don’t know if it’ll do good or sink in, if readers would enjoy it or frown while reading. It’s panicky, but then what’s an author’s life without it? Sharing a quick listing of all the lovely interviews, reviews How to Steal a Ghost @ Manipal, an ebook which got published with Juggernaut has received so far. It also stayed in Top of the Charts within the app! Yay!

img_20160909_085838 INTERVIEWS

“A young student turns into a paranormal investigator to impress her boyfriend.” – Best subhead  found at Asian Age along with a rather lazy, old photo of mine. asian-age-mumbai-2016-10-19 Continue reading “The media on my latest novel on Manipal”

Four reasons your book got rejected

Early morning, you open your email box and out pops yet another rejection from a publisher you had your heart on. You fume, you wither, you get depressed and angry and want to hit someone. Everyone is against your voice. And you feel one of these things:

–       Your writing isn’t good enough.
–       You are not good enough.
–       You have no influence with the editor/publisher.
–       Nothing in India happens without money involved.
–       You should’ve gone to a literary festival and made ‘friends’ and maybe that would’ve helped.
–       No one understands your book. They are all idiots over at the publisher’s.
Sorry, none of the above reasons might be the ones that made your book get a no from the publisher. If they’ve sent you a rejection it means that your pitch actually made it to some editor’s table, got consideration and a refusal. It means it was given a fair chance. I have spoken to a lot of editors and publishers in the last five years and these are the most common reasons I found publishers rejected my work. None of it had to do with me or the book I had written.

1 It didn’t match the publisher’s list

A publisher is a commercial business. Every year, they have a boardroom meeting where they try and figure the trends worldwide, genres and book kinds they think will do well in the market. So each editor already has a list of sorts beginning of their commercial year: Tags in mind like #MetroRead #HighFantasy, #ParanormalRomance, #WarStories, #CelebrityExpose. In comes your book. It doesn’t fit into the boxes they’ve figured. The list they’ve prepared. Only if the editor really, really likes the pitch and then the manuscript will they veer from the list. So if you happen to write the ‘fashionable’ genre of the moment, you’re more likely to be noticed. For example, when Twilight series did well, suddenly all publishers started to take in more fantasy romances. It didn’t mean there weren’t romances being written before, it just meant they started to get a yes from the listmakers.

2 You sent it to the wrong editor

Finding the right editor to pitch your work to is essential in getting it published. There are two things to look out for. First of all, what section is the editor handling? Big publishing houses in India have segregated editors in their editorial team. There’s a Young Adult editor, a Children’s editor, an Adult Fiction editor and a non-Fiction one. So your first step is to find the right genre editor within each publishing house you are targeting. Secondly, editors are hardworking people who are deeply passionate about the books they pick up for their list. Each editor across the industry, loves a particular genre. Do your research for each publishing house, find the right editor and try and connect with them and pitch to them directly. Some of them are open to it. I’ve done is successfully two times in the past.

3 The sales team thought it wasn’t sellable

The decision to publish a book is not of an editor’s alone or even of the editorial team overall. They do sort of a round table conference with their sales and marketing team. The book rights are bought only if the sales team feels confident that it can sell it in the market. Yes, if you’ve got the right editor to vouch for your book and he/she is willing to fight it out in that discussion, your book has a better chance. Which is why the point above is so important. Getting a voice in the publishing house which vouches for you. It helped me get my Anantya Tantrist three-book deal.

4 Your pitch wasn’t focused

We might be great at long form but when it comes to creating the right pitch, many of us fail miserably. In this scenario, the concept of an elevator pitch is quite helpful. If you meet a stranger in an elevator (the speedy ones), what will you say your book is about? You have five seconds. Do this exercise again and again till you cut all the vague meat off your book and know EXACTLY what to say about your book. Then write the email you’re going to send to a publisher. Any good publishing house gets a whopping number of book pitches a day. They call it the slush pile, because a lot of them are badly written emails, unclear and confused. Editors don’t have time to wade through each of them. They go by instinct and a well-written, focused email will always turn them on. It helps to know what each editor is looking for. So instead of a generic email to all, try and send a personalized one to up your chances.

There’s a lot of luck involved in the process and I wish you all the best. If you know of any other reasons of rejections, put them down in the comment box below.

(Also posted over at storywala.blogspot.in as a guest post)

Continue reading “Four reasons your book got rejected”

The importance of failing to write

Failure. That fear that makes all of us run, constantly hurrying in the rat race, getting less sleep, tossing and turning in bed at night, worried, worried that we might fail in making it to our dreams, our goals, fail our children and parents’ expectations or worse, our own expectations from ourselves. Failure is a dirty, filthy word in our world. There with shit, vomit and death. Which is perhaps why no one mentions it, no one wants to remembers it, no one repeats or talks about it.

When I first started to write, I had many no-writing days, many days when I would stare at a screen, panic building up in the dark, squishy pits of my stomach, wondering if I could write, if I was writing anything that made sense to me, would make sense to anyone, would be good enough. I was ashamed of it. I felt that if I failed to write one day, one week or one month, that was it. I was a fake, pretending to be a writer, when I couldn’t even frame one sensible word after another. It had to be me, right? For no one else seems to be going through this. No other author/artists/writer talks about this. I thought I was alone. And it did make it all the more miserable.

Now I am different. Or I hope I am. In not that I don’t fail to write anymore, or that I have won over failure because I have written complete works of novels and have been published. No. I am different because I have realised how failing to write is ESSENTIAL for my writing. Failure, or as I think of it, my blackhole day, is the lifebreath, or the vacuum that comes before a flow of creativity.

failure (1)I fail at writing every day. Every damn day. I sit in front of the computer, my hands spread like claws on my keyboard and I do not know what word to put after the first one and then the other. Failure is essential to my creative process. I have to constantly fall right into failed words and failed ideas to know that they’re not working. I stare everyday deep into failure’s eyes, say hello there and know that like the heroine I am writing about, I too will come out of the frozen phase into creativity, into light, into success of expressing the story. But not today.

You have to, and I repeat, have to, fail to write and get over the fear in order to begin.

You have to do it every day, when you ponder on what word comes next, what the character says next and have no clue as to what that might be. You have to fail to write more than write itself. When you are writing, and you know it’s all wrong and you have to delete it tomorrow and start afresh. You have to be wrong, you have to fail.

Tweet in point. For only when you fail, when you stare into the blackhole for a whole day, does your creative mind bless you with a few words to express the story that has been dancing in your head. It’s a blessing really and enjoy it, for tomorrow, in writing that fresh scene, you will start to fail again.

I write this not so much as a catharsis but also as a call out for those desperately looking for a sign of success while in the blackhole. Fail, it’s okay. It’s okay to drop a book unfinished, it’s okay to write a completely wrong or badly sentenced scene. It’s okay to fail. For you have to learn how to fail in order to succeed.

As a quote attributed to Thomas Edison says:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” 

And till now, with the grace of the muses who look after me for no apparent reason, I haven’t had a day when the blackhole of failure doesn’t dry up the next day when I am keying in words.

Keep failing, peeps!

 

 

What happens when a dream comes true?

I had been waiting for it to happen since almost a year. Ten years if you count it to the year I might have started to think on this dream: to get a book published. When it did happen, it happened on a rather unremarkable day. (Though the weather was beautiful, which is not surprising if you consider that Bangalore’s weather is always gorgeous.) Rather than read my address, as Bangalore courier guys are, a courier guy called me up to say he had a packet to deliver. I directed him to my house and reached barely 30 minutes after he must’ve given the courier.

I opened the courier and this is what I discovered:

Ghost Hunters of Kurseong

 

 

Ten copies of The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong, my first novel for children, published beautifully by Hachette India. Sent without informing me. The surprise was complete. Wow. I felt a shiver, but nothing else. It took a few days of celebration, spread the word, congrats on Facebook and Twitter, phone calls to make it feel real. My dream to publish a novel in my name had come true. It’s been a weekend and a busy week and I learnt a few things after I saw the book in my hand and wanted to share it with all of you.

  • I could not feel happiness till I called people who I knew would feel happy for me. My husband, my parents, my friends who have stood by me with tea, coffee and conversations. My editor Diya who worked equally hard on the book as me and Jayesh, the amazing illustrator for the book.

  • When a dream comes true, the moment itself is pretty unremarkable. Either it’s not sunk in, or you remember the crazinesses you went through to make it come true. The realisation comes slowly and wine helps.

  • Even before you enjoy it, another dream replaces the one that has just come true (in my case, I would like to find more readers for my books) and whoosh, the feeling of achieving the dream is lost. So basically, you never stop carrying the slightly worried-panicked expression that you have seen on writers’ faces.

  • New authors message you on social networks wanting to know how they can write books and demand to know how you made it to a publisher’s table. (I did it to another debut author as well) ‘Just send the proposal and wait’ just doesn’t seem to cut it. Some of them are slightly suspicious and keep prodding till you log out of the said social network.

  • You still have a truckload of work to do which will not happen if you keep being in the moment. 😉

 

 

The end is here!

120 days of daily of writing

One year of planning

1,17,835 words

132 pages of words

472 kb size of a word document

IMG_20121026_124353

Like I always believed. Numbers don’t tell you anything about the story. It is a beautiful story, btw, this one, of magical pubs and other places, creatures, people, humans and blood and violence and humour and lots of other things. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s Bollywood masala and sweat, all mixed up.

It’s my second novel. It’s a fantasy book, the one I always wanted to write. The one I wasn’t sure I could. When I wrote the words ‘The End’ many emotions rolled inside of me. Elation! Ten years ago, I thought I couldn’t even write an article. Two years ago, I was convinced that I couldn’t write a novel, but wanted to try anyway. Tears of having to say bye to characters I have cared for since the last whole year. What happens to them after I write ‘The End’? Their stories are not complete, not by far. They are still in my heart, thinking up of new adventures. I don’t know if my body will have the strength to write more stories about them. Or if I will move on to others.

This novel is double the size of my last—not only in words, but also scope and imagination. It has made me bleed with sweat, frustration, tears, emotion, crazy depression and even hallucination. I have loved it and hated it. I was never bored in its vast middle, always living in a weird rollercoaster while writing every word of it (as my family and friends will tell you) . As I say good-bye to the characters I have created (did i?), nurtured, become friends me, I feel tears in my eyes. I am so proud of all of them. I find them funny, frustrating and fun. They are my gang, my friends. And the adventures they have, are mind-bogglingly crazy! Unlike my relatively boring life.

This is not the end really. It’s just one-third of the work, as I experienced in my debut novel. This would have to be send through the vast drums of editing, rewriting, editing and some more rewriting. Novel writing is for madwomen. Finally, I know a profession, a career, a passion which suits my particular type of madness!

For now though, I am ready to party! And then move on…for a while atleast to the next fun thing.

–THE END–

Vague stats of my new novel

Vague stats of my new novel, originally uploaded by Shwetawrites.

Time to pitch is now!

 

Finally the day has come. And what can be better than the start of the new year to do something that you have cringed from all of last year? I am going to close Mystery of the Iyer Bungalow (yes, dear readers, it’s still not published. The reason is that it’s still being edited and has not been even shown to a publisher yet). I have begun the process of pitching its manuscript to publishers starting January. I was afraid all of end of last months of 2011. I cringed, stalled, questioned, panicked, and analysed. Basically did everything in the WHAT IFS category and didn’t pitch the book.

Now I am geared myself for rejections, criticisms, rotten tomatoes and jeers. Basically anything and everything that anyone who wants to throw can throw at me.

Maybe it’s the new year. But I am determined. I am determined that I will follow my dream and write and write some more.

 

MY NEW YEAR NO-RESOLUTIONS

Here are things I am NOT going to do this new year:

  • I will not be afraid of reactions to my writing.
  • I will not think on writing and not write.
  • I will not compare.
  • I will not worry about what my life would have been with different choices
  • I will not be afraid out trying new things.
  • I will not worry about how bad I write
  • I will not equate success with the money I could have been earning.
  • I will not feel lonely and boring.
  • I will not feel envious of books I enjoy reading.
  • I will not stick to my comfort zone.

With so many things I had been doing, it’s a wonder I still write. Stubborn I think 🙂

 

A sentimental note for Mystery of the Iyer bungalow: As I put in the finishing touches to the my first manuscript of the Mystery of the Iyer Bungalow, I feel a sense of anti-climax. While editing the book, I realised that it could have become so many other books with the same characters, with the same settings.  I would like to change it a bit, tweak it from here, add things to that side, but I cannot. Not anymore. I know it’s not perfect still, I don’t think it ever will become perfect. Like a mother, I feel I am over-fretting on my child rather than setting it free. So many emotions. When did I become so attached to just words? I hope someone else becomes attached to this imperfect book, reads it and enjoys it. That’s after all, the most important thing.

Bye, Bye my 1st baby!

It’s a rather pretty day today, have you noticed? I did, after a long, long time!

If any of you avid readers of my blog wondered what I have been up for almost a month of my absence from the online world, it’s editing. Two of my biggest projects which I had set out to do in the last eight months, have finally come to an end. I suddenly feel kind of empty. Nice empty Smile

The first mammoth one was the Digital Natives project. I edited two books for the NGO Centre for Internet and Society which were a culmination of three years of research. The books are out now in the world and fending for themselves now. I send them hugs. You can view the research book for free online or order one for yourself. Hear more about them on the dedicated page.

My second project was much tougher. I had decided to write a complete book while editing the Digital Natives books. Madness, now that I look back at it, but somehow the decision helped me bring out my first book and overcome my lack of confidence. It worked! Yes dear readers and the online universe, the first draft of my book is over!

It’s tentatively called Mystery of the Iyer Bungalow and is a children detective fiction. I thought writing it would be the biggest challenge for me, it wasn’t. It was editing that proved to be the main hurdle. It took much longer in time and was an emotional, depressing experience. Questions I didn’t have answer to hit me. Does the book work? asked the Editor in me. The Writer cringed and said she didn’t know. I had to take decisions of chopping down characters I had created with a lot of love and enjoyment. They didn’t fit into the narrative Sad smile

Finally, the first level of editing is finished. I feel a strange calm sadness. I have sent the book out (it’s going for the first time!) to some of my industry friends to read and for feedback. My heart beats fast and wonders how it will feel about it. I still don’t know if anyone would like to read this book. I don’t know how she will be treated (yes my book has feelings!) and if she will ever be published. I have lost every sense of objectivity for her. I am her mother and she’s my baby. I can’t be objective about her. As an decently good Editor, it’s a scary experience! And since it’s just a first draft and I don’t even have a publisher, I bet this is just a start to a long, long journey of my book. I wish Mystery of the Iyer Bungalow best of luck and hope that someday, a kid would read you and it would make her smile, just as it did me.

And that is the challenge that creative writing poses for me. It makes me experience the best and the worse of my talent and creative self. The highest and the lowest, both come one and again, in cycles. I had always wondered why suddenly one day, I decided to quit my journalism career and walk the thorny and painful path of fiction and fantasy writing. Now I know.