B for Balancing work, life and writing – Authors’ Tips – A to Z of Writing

This is my first blog post on a new series. A new series of blog posts titled “Authors’ Tips – A to Z of Writing” that aims to cover all aspects of writing. Authors Devika FernandoPreethi VenugopalaParomita GoswamiReet SinghRuchi Singh, Sudesna Ghosh and Adite Banerjie
Topics are chosen alphabetically and each of us strive to post a blog post a week. This post shall focus on the topic of writing through demanding times. Well isn’t life as a whole very demanding?
Want to write that great story taking life in your heart, but you face obstacles. Obstacles that you can’t dare remove. Job, family, kids, friends, social commitments, the list can go on. Each of them having a reason or more to make you feel guilty of sidelining them if you ever do. The usual casualty of this tussle is that which is closest to your heart, that unwritten story or book. Tragic!
Authors on A-Z of Writing
It has happened to me. It still happens to me and I am done sure it will repeat in future. Not just to me, but to every aspiring, struggling and successful writer. Apart from tough will, only a robust process will help us break the never ending wait. That boils down to :
Accepting the reality. 
Even the most successful writers find it hard to allocate large chunks of disturbance free writing time. If not family and day jobs, they have marketing, partnerships and social obligations that fill their day. The only way we can start writing is by realising that a disturbance free writing day is a myth. We have to squeeze in smaller chunks of 15-25 minutes to push our manuscripts. Either by 50 or by 500 words. A friend who is a very successful author is also a highly placed official in the ministry of external affairs. The sheer amount of files that pass through her desk is mind boggling. She says she types her novel in those 5-10 minutes of respite she gets in between her busy paper work! Her strength? Her readiness to accept and embrace those mini/micro chunks of time and utilise it to fuel her passion of writing!
 
Focus on progress, not perfection
Human mind survives on feedback. It takes immense practice and will power to control that urge to seek feedback. Most of us aren’t looking to become a Yogi in the Himalayas, so we would be better off giving the mind what it needs. When you set to ‘perfect’, say your first chapter, the quest might be quite long, for your characters might not be anchored well enough and you keep getting ideas that might drive you on a rewriting spree. But when fatigue claims you, your overall progress would demotivate you. Hence, it is always better to focus on progress instead of perfection and get done with that Shitty first draft.
 
Grow out of device blocks
I am trudging ahead on the motherhood journey. The first couple of months were rather not so taxing on my writing. But as my baby got older, she took an immense interest in my laptop. The key she loves the most is ‘Delete’! You guessed it right. The time I get to sit with my laptop has considerably gone down. I resisted the idea of typing on my phone. But considering the amount of typing I do on Whatsapp and Twitter, I thought 500 words a day on phone itself isn’t an impossible thing to do. Hence I shifted from Word to Google docs, at least as far as my first drafts are concerned. Now, I can focus on that progress, thanks to multi device syncing! I can type as I watch over my little one sleeps, or as I can sneak a couple of mins in between cooking, or when travelling, and it goes on.
 
Negotiate, give,take
A friend was facing a problem with her spouse not encouraging her writing ‘enough’. She used to pour it out in our group over how she hardly gets time to do writing, The peer support advised her to start with negotiating a couple of hours a week to focus on writing and also support the husband in any of his hobbies. Thankfully she took that seriously and started the word count engine roaring. A couple of months down the line, her output impressed her husband so much that he no, religiously strives to give one full day a week to write, edit or do anything related to her business of writing. Giving the support system our time conveys that we take them seriously and showing constant progress on our own goals shows that we take ourselves seriously. Both are qualities that evoke respect. But it is important to realise that all can’t be done in a day. Your day and My day need to be understood and mutually respected. After all, this is a crucial step in relationship building, be it a spouse, a kid or a boss.
 
Wrapping it up
My first novel took me four years. The next one, close to a year and the third, about a month for the first draft!I wrote my fourth novel, typing and dictating not more than a couple of sentences at a time, sometimes typing with a single finger while nursing my baby, holding her in my other arm. Every time, it was a new learning experience. But getting rid of mental blocks we form s the first step to get past any challenge.
 
 
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#AuthorpreneurSpeak – Guest post by Author Ruchi Singh

Today’s guest post for AuthorpreneurSpeak is by the very dynamic Ruchi Singh author of four best selling novels. She shares some of the wisdom that helped her scale the best selling lists.

“If you wish to be a writer, write.”

― Epictetus

Nothing can sum up the writing process as clinically as the statement above. But is it that simple?

At the outset writing sentence after sentence seems quite easy but writing a unique story, after story is a different ball game altogether. Typically what I have seen during five years in this field; people, who have been reading or are in love with words, think it’s a breeze, but believe me it gets tough as you struggle day after day for new ideas, inspirations, and motivation.

Am I trying to discourage anyone? The answer is ‘no’, instead I want everyone to get into the field with open eyes and mind. There will be moments of euphoria and dejection, frenzy and desperation, happiness and misery. It’s a virtual see-saw of every emotion in the spectrum.

So here I am with my two cents which I have gathered during my writing journey of nearly five years, observing my own writing patterns and fellow writers.

Set an aim

Setting a long-term goal or aim is of utmost importance. To set an aim one has to navigate through the maze of genres, mode of publishing, editors, designers, marketing etc. Setting of aim also includes knowing your target audience; age, gender, background etc

Learn your art

Whatever you decide to do, you should learn the nuts and bolts of the writing machinery, and how to fasten them together. For this one will need the necessary knowledge, skills and tools and support group around you to help you accomplish your goals. Let’s look at them individually;

  • Process: Write the first draft, improve and improve. Let it sit for a period of time then re-write. After that it is editing, editing, and editing.
  • Language: You should be proficient in the language you have decided to write. The grammar rules should be mastered. Some may say that correcting the language is a job of an editor. No, the editor’s job is not to rewrite your book, but to make the writing consistent, crisp and appealing, and at the end to point out the inadvertent mistakes which might have crept into the narrative.
  • Skills: Creative writing skills need to be honed. One should know different kind of voice, POVs, show and tell, dialogue and monologue, exposition, characterization etc. It’s a complete degree course in the universities, so don’t underestimate the subject.
  • Tools: These days there are various tools to aid a writer. Use them to optimize your time and effort. I am a big fan of Scrivener for plotting and organizing scenes etc. Then there is Aeon, which I have not explored much. Grammarly, Autocrit are good to catch language goof-ups.

Be creative

I, as a thumb rule, discard the first two ideas which come to my mind for any story, scene, character traits or plot, just to avoid commonplace ideas. One has to be creative with plot-line, characterization, and description to make the story a unique offering to the readers. Remember you have to bring them back for the next book.

Perseverance

This is the key to achieve anything in life. The first story is a wonder, the second one is a delight but the third and fourth and the one after that need sheer determination and zeal. At times you might not need the motivation to drive yourself, but most of the times you have to have a strong resolve to complete the work.

Learn marketing

Whether you are publishing through a publisher or self-publishing you have to promote your book. There is no escaping from marketing your book.

With the onset of online media, it is imperative to know both online as well as offline marketing. Social Media presence is very important in the age of the Internet; have a website/ blog, and Facebook page to showcase your work. Use Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to interact with your readers and build your brand.

Having said everything, it is imperative to state that; do enjoy your writing process. The thrill of getting a heart-felt review from a satisfied reader will diminish the pain of spilling the sweat and blood.

All the very best!

About the Author

Author of the bestselling romantic thriller ‘The Bodyguard’, Ruchi Singh is an IT professional turned novelist. Her other published novels are ‘Take 2’ and ‘Jugnu (Firefly)’. Winner of TOI Write India Season 1, Ruchi has also published a short story collection, ‘Hearts and Hots’, besides being a contributing author to many anthologies.

 

When two worlds collide – A #ReleaseDay post by Author Reet Singh

Ever wondered what would happen if two characters from your two favourite books meet? I do that all the time. Reet Singh, has gone a yard ahead and has written this lively conversation between two of her protagonists – Mita from ‘Take One Fake Fiancé’ meets Mohini from ‘No Escape from Love’.

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Reet is a doctor by profession and a successful novelist published by Harper Collins.She recently discovered the Indie world and has made quite an entry with her “No escape from Love.”

And today is the launch day of Take One Fake Fiance!

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Read the conversation below and Take your pick. I’d say pick both books of hers 🙂

‘Excuse me, but I think I know you from somewhere…’

‘Oh,’ Mita looks up from the Lehenga she’s admiring and shakes her head politely. ‘I don’t know – I would remember if we’d met before.’

She would – the girl standing to one side and gazing at her with perplexed curiosity has a face that would launch a thousand ships. Difficult to forget – and then there’s her hair – gorgeous and dark and cascading all the way to her waist.

The girl laughs, a deep, full-throated laugh, and it makes Mita smile in response. ‘What’s so funny?’ she asks, unable to take offense at the lovely creature. ‘I’m Mita, by the way.’

‘Mohini,’ the other girl says, and they shake hands awkwardly considering that Mita has a couple of lehengas in one hand and Mohini has a whole bunch of colorful silk outfits over an arm.

‘Sorry – I just remembered where I might have seen you – weren’t you at the Sheraton in Delhi last month?’

‘I was,’ Mita responds, piqued but still unable to place Mohini.

‘I was there, too, on my honeymoon,’ Mohini says, blushing sweetly. ‘You were having an argument with a rather dashing man about something if I remember correctly. We were passing by and we happened to overhear some of it…’

‘Oh lord, yes. I was forever at war with him – he was the most aggravating man I had ever met.’

‘We had the suite next to yours, incidentally, and your room happened to be on our way to the lifts. Aalok – that’s my husband – and I, we had no choice but to walk by your door.’

Mita grimaces. ‘Was I awful? I hope I didn’t scare you into asking for a change of room?’

‘No, no,’ Mohini giggles. ‘What’s interesting is that one minute you were mad and the next you were kissing him as if there was no tomorrow.’

‘Oh no! You saw that?’

‘Well, your door was wide open…and…’ Mohini frowns. ‘I hope you don’t mind me mentioning it.’

‘No, not at all,’ Mita grins. ‘If it’s any consolation to you, I’m now married to that man, although I loathed him then.’

‘Aw, how romantic.’

‘It is,’ Mita smiles. ‘Listen, Mohini, I’ve promised to join Tanay for a drink before dinner. Why don’t you join us? Bring your Aalok – we’d love to meet him.’

‘Sure. Does Pinkish the pub suit? We could be there at seven.’

‘Sounds good,’ Mita says. ‘Sounds very good.’

About the book

The Blurb

Mita Ramphul is single and fancy-free – and she wants to stay that way for the foreseeable future. Living and working on the idyllic island of Mauritius is the stuff dreams are made of – until she bumps into a man who threatens to destroy it all.

Tanay Devkumar is cynical and shuttered – events in his past have cast a long and deep shadow. Convinced that Mita Ramphul represents a threat to his sister’s happiness, he seeks her out, determined to block her nefarious plans.

They meet in circumstances that can only be described as hostile – suspicions abound and resentments flare on both sides, even as attraction simmers beneath the surface. A series of disastrous events follow and they are compelled to pretend that they are in love and wish to marry.

It is meant to be a temporary engagement – but will Mita be able to resist her fake fiancé or will his scorching kisses make her yearn for something more permanent?

Originally published as “Scorched by His Fire” by Harlequin India, 2014

Take One Fake Fiancé is a refurbished, revamped, remodelled, updated version of Scorched and is available on Kindle.

 

 

Spotlight : Crazy Cat Lady Finds Love by Sudesna Ghosh

Happy to present an excerpt from this hilarious novella, “Crazy Cat Lady Finds Love” by the Journalist turned author and friend, Sudesna (Sue) Ghosh! Having read Sue’s previous books, I am expecting another very lively read. 

Guess the below excerpt proves it!

Would Navin think I was pretty? Would he hold my hand? Maybe he would kiss me if we got some privacy?

“Too many questions, Sue,” I told myself, as the cab rolled on.

Navin sent me a text saying he would be at the café in 15 minutes. He added another text saying he couldn’t wait to meet me finally. Aww. Genuine excitement or was he being polite? I wasn’t the insecure kind but this online dating thing just filled relationships with so much mystery. Never tried it in my 20s.

The Crazy Cat Ladies Club group had three messages; one from each of the ladies, telling me to relax and give them details after he left. I wrote back asking Sunita to let us know about Vivek’s visit that night too. She replied: I will. Sigh.

Turning off my mobile data, I felt my stomach churn as we pulled up at my destination. There stood my date, dressed immaculately in a polo neck tee and dark jeans, feeding a street dog biscuits. The dog wagged his tail and Navin’s eyes said it all – he had the same look in them that I’d seen in my friends’ eyes when we were with animals. Love. It was pure, beautiful love.

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What Amazon readers are saying:

“The author has a wry observational voice that makes me chuckle every time I read her. The cats are cute too and the dude is extra cute! Five full stars.”

“Along with men trouble, dating issues, canine problems, and Cat man, Navin, this book makes the perfect satisfying read for pet lovers and others, alike. if you haven’t considered keeping a pet, you may be tempted to after reading this. very refreshing and a fun great read!”

Author bio

Sudesna or Sue, is a multi-genre author based in Kolkata, India. She has penned My Singapore Fling, A Perfect New York Christmas, Can a Fat Girl Get a First Kiss? and many other books. Her short stories have been published in magazines across India. When she isn’t reading or writing, you can find her trying to keep her rescue cats happy.

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Do grab your copy from Amazon

A day on top and looking back at past decisions.

“Find something that you really are passionate about, Sai.”

Sateesh’s words ring in my ears. My (former) boss had figured out before I could, that m job wasn’t making me happy. I used to work in a Venture Capital firm and the job did have all elements to motivate a professional. So his words came as a surprise to me. I did have a passion. Passion for the stories of ancient Indian past, those from the Vedas, Puranas and the itihasas. I thought that had no chances of becoming a commercial success. I was already struggling with an earlier draft of Abhaya which, at that point of time, was headed nowhere with the traditional publishers (Little did I know that I would be thanking my stars for the same!). I never spoke much about this passion of mine with my boss, but his words implied that the commercials have a way of working out when we take the plunge. Four years years down the line, I realised how true it is!

About a year after that conversation, destiny took me to London and it was not possible for me, as a short term immigrant, to find a similar job. I decided to take the plunge. I decided to believe in myself. I decided to believe more, in the story that chose me as its bard. A voice within told me not to subject my final draft to an indefinite wait loop of the traditional publishing. The voice won. I am glad it did! I Self Published my first novel, learning every bit of the process on the fly, from engaging an editor and a cover designer to learning marketing hands on.

Abhaya, my first novel, not only gave me the feeling of self fulfilment of telling the story closest to my heart, but also paved the way for a journey of learning, of resilience and of pursuing this dream of a full fledged writing career. After an intense year of learning about various aspects of the business of book, publishing and writing, I managed to complete the first draft of my second novel Avishi.

Avishi gave me a different experience. It saw me transit from an author to an authorpreneur. From planning a full fledged book launch to liaising with  bloggers, reviewers and social media influencers, from diversifying my network presences to giving talks, online and offline, pursuing my passion as a profession taught me to be a true professional. To Write. To Publish. To Sell. And To Repeat.

Perhaps the universe wanted to show me that it is behind me, Avishi topped the charts in the formidable Myths, Legends and Sagas category for a day!

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Discount promotions by Amazon had happened in the past but never did I witness this kind of a peak. Avishi also got to touch an over all rank of #19 in the Kindle Paid store. Quoting Steven Pressfield, I felt that my journey from being an amateur to a Pro had turned a corner.

That’s what staying true to one’s heart can do. Do you have stories of experiencing that bloom within when you followed your heart? Do share in the comments.

 

 

 

Spotlight – “From Everest, with Love” by Mountaineer Neillima Pudota

Delighted to Spotlight my friend Neillima’s book titled “From Everest, With Love”. The book contains heartfelt letters that the author wrote to her mother while she was scaling the highest mountain peak in the world!. Wishing the ace mountaineer’s book too scales the ranking peaks! 

Below is the excerpt-

While there are many physical challenges you overcome as you climb a mountain, the most important ones are almost always to do with the mind. It was the same with me. In my initial mountaineering days, which started with trekking, there were many instances when I wanted to give up and return home. But I constantly had conversations with myself, reminding myself that I have to make it. It is then I realized that my own words were inspiring me and I started to write.

Among the many beautiful things about the mountains, one of them is whatever you write when out there comes straight from the heart. Because at an altitude of nearly 17,000 feet, chances are you listen to your heart and then talk to your mind, asking it to stop sending signals of physical exertion until you reach the destiny. That is one of the ways you make your mind strong. What else makes you strong?

Talking to your loved ones. Yes, a constant conversation with yourself and the people who love you so much that all they want is for you to live your dreams, can bring out the best in you.

It was a promise I made to my Amma that I will write to her every day from the Everest, sharing with her all the details of the climb; my fear, my excitement and all the deep feelings I experienced during my climb.

While Sagarmatha gave me a reason to keep climbing up, this journal of letters addressed to my mom gave me a reason to come back each day and write to Amma. You will find, in this book, a reflection of yourself.

If you dream of climbing the Everest, this book gives you the details of the Everest. If you search for hope, you will find lots in here. If you wonder about disappointment, you will find that here too. If you just yearn for a gripping story, this book has that as well. And if you are struggling to face the mountains of your life, I hope this book gives you strength.

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Hope you read the book and draw inspiration from the adventures of the author. Here is the buy link of the book 

About the Author

Neelima, or Neil as she is fondly called is a professional Mountaineer and has just authored her first book titled ‘From Everest, With Love’. Academically qualified as an Engineer, she has a total of 8 years corporate work experience before she started to pursue Mountaineering full time. An avid reader, a compulsive traveller and a fitness enthusiast, She is based out of Hyderabad and works as a director for Third Pole Adventures Pvt Ltd., her outdoor startup company.

#AuthorpreneurSpeak- Guestpost by Mayur Didolkar #MondayMotivation

Today’s guest post is by Mayur Didolkar, author of two novels and a number of short stories. His recent anthology Nagin has won accolades from book lovers all over the country. 

Ernest Hemingway supposed to have said once “there is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed”, and while there is no point in lesser (much lesser) authors like us talking about the truism of the statement by the great man, I think most of 21st century writer will agree that while there might be nothing to writing more than bleeding, career in fiction writing today takes more than just writing.  In my case, selling my novel The Dark Road to Juggernaut publishing and then going through the paces of pre-production with their ace editing and marketing team has been a big learning curve. This experience was further fine-tuned when I published my second novel Tears for Strangers and my first paperback short story collection Nagin through them this year and here are some things these 2 years taught me.

  1. Keep your day job- The simple truth is publishing (whether self-published or trad) is a tough industry to make a living out of, especially if you are the primary (or only) income earner of the family. As William Darlymple recently noted the advances paid to authors are going down (but speaking fees are increasing!), so this career has a longer gestation period. The good news is it is possible to write while you keep a day job. I run an investment consulting business in Pune since June 2015, and in the last 3 years I have written first drafts of 3 novels, 14 short stories and over 100 articles as well as the re-write/editing work on all of the above. You need to be  smart about your time management, have a positive attitude to the work in general and understand and appreciate how delayed gratification works. Having your livelihood independent of your writing takes a lot of pressure off the entire creative process. It also means you can afford to take smart decisions for long term rather than saying yes to the first available offer. In my case, as my day job involves interacting with people from diverse walks of life, it also gives me great opportunity to observe various types of people in different everyday situations, which is a great learning in itself.
  2. Editors look for professionalism over flash of genius- Unless you are a John Grisham or a Stephen King debuting at the top of the bestseller lists, your first work is a statement of possibilities for the editor at a publishing house. He/she is trying to judge if you are someone who shows promise for future along with the appeal of the current submission. Try and submit as finished a product as possible (I had hired an editor to work on The Dark Road before submitting the full MS and I consider that among the best investments I made so far), stick to your deadlines as closely as possible and remember Woody Allen when he says “ 80% of the success is showing up”.
  3. Once your MS is accepted and you start working on the edits, be open-minded about the changes recommended by the editor/s. In some writing forums, writers write about their battles with editors with a pride in their own stubbornness that completely baffles me. Understanding that as a writer you are too close to be your own editor is the first key to becoming a professional writer. I feel self-published writers need to be even more open minded as in their case they are also the client of the editor who is telling them what doesn’t work. Remember the old adage about a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client is equally true about editing.
  4. A professional writer will always have projects going on in different stages of production. While we were editing The Dark Road, I had already written five short stories and pitched them to Juggernaut. Once The Dark Road got ready for release, we were working on the editing of these stories while I had started writing the first draft of Tears for Strangers and while that was going through its paces post first draft, I had started writing the short stories that became part of Nagin. After the advent of digital publishing and explosion in the self-publishing market, the bandwidth on offer to each new writer is getting squeezed. If you want to hold onto that bandwidth, you need to have projects ready for publishing with a fair bit of continuity. Adam Croft, a successful self-published writer from England says the best thing he did after he finished writing his first book, is he wrote another. I endorse this whole-heartedly.
  5. Whether self-published or trad, do it for the right reasons. If you want to self-publish because you don’t have the patience for the process or the stomach to reject large swathes of rejections or criticisms, you are doing it wrong. If you want to go trad because you think self-publishing is somehow demeaning or if you think traditionally published authors don’t have to sell their own books, then you are doing it wrong. Both options come with their own pros and cons and it is very important to first understand both and then decide which one plays best to your strengths.

Stephen King has described writing as a form of telepathy, extending the same analogy, I would say published writing is a form of a magic show that you as a magician produce with the help of many professionals. A wise magician knows his strengths and surrounds himself with teams that compliments his strengths.

Be  that wise magician.

Mayur Didolkar is an entrepreneur cum author with an undying passion for literature, politics and marathons. Check out his whole published collection here.