P for Process (Or Productivity or Plotting….)

I have often been asked about my writing process. Having struggled from being an ‘aspiring’ (read clueless about how to get that damn draft done) author to someone with multiple books, I have realized the value that following a process brings in. The journey of putting down ~100,000 words does not happen riding on inspiration alone. This is my attempt to document the steps I take now to get my first drafts done.

Authors on A-Z of Writing

Jotting the idea

It is important to put the idea on to paper as soon as it visits your brain. (If you delay, it gets angry and leaves!…Well kidding…or am I?). We get new story ideas from many sources. The act of jotting it down helps us identify the key protagonist, her purpose and her journey – the whole snake and ladder game that her destiny makes her play.  On answer these simple questions

  1. Who is your key protagonist?
  2. What does she want?
  3. Who or what stands in her way? (The whole story would obviously be about how she overcomes 3 to achieve 2)

I prefer doing it on paper than on a machine as the whole striking off what is bad, adding new elements and everything else is visible and there for us to revisit anytime. Same can’t be said about typing in on your laptop.

Refining these elements helps the writer firm up the idea and proceed to the next step that is plotting.

Plotting

When I started out my journey, I indulged in this much forbidden act of ‘pantstering’. Well, there are many writers who have churned out master pieces. But given that this took me short of four years to complete my first novel, I stay away from pantstering. The age old task of plotting the entire novel is a lot less of a burden on my right brain.

Once the crucial questions have been answered, I proceed to jot down the key events that define the protagonist’s journey. The dangers that threaten her or those dear to her, discoveries that she makes while running away or fighting back, her course of action, her pit falls and everything leading to the final conflict. (Sorry for making this seem too action or fantasy, but believe me, the process works just as well for a cosy romance too)

I follow a two level plotting process.  A process that has now seen me through four full length novels (and is helping me through my fifth and sixth too). This ensures a focused workout to the creative muscle, avoiding needless loops which could prove fatal to our motivation (which is as such a precious scarce resource).

Sprint, sprint and sprint productively

The initial spurt of enthusiasm should be made use of to cover the early miles and that is like an investment that generates returns all through your journey. It all boils down to showing up regularly and adding a few hundred words (push it to the four digit) to the manuscript. It all boils down to doing this every day. Every. Single. Day. Till you reach the end. That’s how you make your writing sessions productive. Life always comes in the way, coercing you to put away writing for a better day. But that better day is today. It is lost if you ignore it. (Read this post on how I managed to type my 100,000 words within seven months of becoming a mother.)

As the earlier phase of plotting zeroes down on blind spots, we need not write the story linearly and first fill up those chapters where we have clarity. Do not wait for that one hundred percent clarity before you start writing. While travelling on a misty day, you need to advance a mile ahead to know what lies on the next. Writing is just that. Adventurous, uncertain and an immensely fulfilling activity. Only if we can adopt the ‘Process’.

This post is a part of the A-Z blog posts on A-Z writing Series that I am participating along with my writer friends. Visit back in a week to find links to all their P posts.

 

 

Advertisements

#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.

 

 

#AuthorpreneurSpeak – “Living the dream” by Devika Fernando #Motivation

After last week’s featuring of Sudesna Ghosh’s “Becoming an authorpreneur, we have Devika Fernando, an entrepreneur, a writer and a wonderful individual, candidly sharing how she got to live her dream. Read on.

For me, words always held magic. I grew up being read to every day, then quickly moved on to reading even before I ‘officially’ learned reading and writing at school. My love with reading led to a love for writing at an early age. I remember writing my first (very) short poems and short stories when I was seven years old. But then life happened. Studies and growing up as well as the realities of moving and taking on responsibilities got in the way of writing, although I never stopped being a voracious reader.

In my late teenage years, I read my first books by Anne Rice and then devoured all the Vampire Chronicles novels. It was then that I truly said for the first time that “I want to be a writer”. But it was a somewhat vague concept, overshadowed by the fact that it all seemed nearly impossible. It remained a dream for many years during which I kept jotting down story ideas, poems and stories, now in English more than in German because I began to read more and more books in English.

Fast forward to 2013, when I finally decided to make my dream reality and turn a hobby into a job. I stumbled upon the concept of self-publishing online and suddenly it seemed as if a new world had opened up, full of possibilities (and challenges). What had always just been a fantasy vaguely associated with rejections and final fame or a lonely existence and failure was now something that could be approached like a freelance job. And I vowed: I wouldn’t “dabble” in writing or take anything for granted. I would try to make the most of the opportunities and become an authorpreneur.

A common definition for authorpreneur is an author who also acts like an entrepreneur. That basically means you don’t simply write a book but also promote it actively, work with certain tools of the trade and create your own brand. The last part is one of the most important aspects and something an authorpreneur should never lose focus of. It’s not merely about the books, it’s what is associated with the writing and the author. Authorpreneurs need to find their USP and build their author platform on it – whether they specialize in short and hot reads, a certain type of paranormal topics, forbidden romances, a certain language style or something similar like my multicultural romances set in different countries. Part of the author brand are covers, website, social media appearances and promotional methods.

All this can make it difficult to not forget the actual writing, so what I try is to take this as seriously as possible and allocate time to all aspects. I’ll start in the morning by checking my social media accounts and e-mails as well as my book sales and any promotional campaigns that might be running. Then throughout the day – to make use of different time zones – I keep interacting, posting and promoting. I also make sure I write a certain amount of words per day, preferably a complete scene or even a chapter. I don’t permit myself to seek excuses. To me, there is no “writer’s block” or “my muse has gone silent”. I’m the driving force and this is my responsibility on which my success depends. That is, in my opinion, one of the biggest challenges of doing this and also the main aspect that separates an authorpreneur from an author.

I consider myself lucky that I have been able to make a dream come true and that I have the means to be an author, so I make sure I live up to it. A doctor doesn’t refrain from operating because they lack “inspiration”. A teacher doesn’t earn their salary by letting things rest and hoping for a miracle. Likewise, an authorpreneur doesn’t rely on luck and should – in my humble opinion – bring more than creativity to the business.

Do check out the books authored by Devika here.

The Writerpreneur Series. On the Indie author’s journey

Sharing knowledge is something that motivates me. I think highly of those who do it religiously. After publishing three novels on the Indie publishing mode, bagging a traditional publishing contract (which may be on its way to span multiple books) and gaining attention from the right corners, I really want to grab this opportunity to play the role of an enabler too.

Over the next few months, I shall post an article every week sharing my experience about various milestones of Indie publishing. The topics span writing, editing, publishing, marketing and book reviews relevant to the area. While I shall try my best to order the posts, many of them would be spontaneously written, often inspired by my conversations with aspiring writers.  Hope to make ad offer a booklet of all the posts once they reach a logical completion.

Those who are interested in my past posts, please click here to access them. 

You could also suggest me topics to dwell on or feel free to ask questions that nag you in the comment section. I welcome interacting with you all.

Keep watching the space.

Complete the draft – Silencing the inner critic (for now) #Writerslife #Productivity

Whenever anyone tells me that s/he is an aspiring writer, the first thing I tell them is to get rid of the word ‘aspiring’. I tell them to sprint through the first draft of whatever has sprouted from the creative depths of their minds. Often, they tell me that they aren’t able to complete the first draft and a sizeable proportion of these aspiring writers are victims of their own inner critic.

Now, this inner critic is a result of two contradicting drivers. Fear and Aspiration.

Fear

“My writing is not good enough.”

“People would laugh at me!”

“I myself would not read what I write!”

“I hate my own writing.”

Aspiration

“I can do better than this. I must do better than this.”

“I shall settle with nothing less than perfect.”

“I shall not stop till I make this the best written piece.”

You would have realised by now, that these two contradicting forces drag your creative self in two opposing directions and as a result, you stay where you are. And you risk staying there forever! If you don’t tell your inner critic to go an a vacation. I say vacation because we would need him back in the editing phases of the draft. But as far as writing the first draft is concerned, he has to observe silence.

Completing the first draft is largely about Momentum. The Creative self hates inertia. She hates stagnation. She is this dynamic being which needs to be on the move. She survives on that. Measure it in terms of word count or chapter count or just the progress of the story, but you can’t stop. You just can’t stop if the reason is this nagging need to perfect the draft till date. The creative self is all about progress, not perfection. As Susan Kaye Quinn candidly puts in, there is nothing called perfect. There is only finished. You can hone your imperfect first draft. But there is little you can do about an unwritten draft.

If you end today at the same point where you ended yesterday, you might or might not satisfy the inner critic, but you shall definitely fail the inner muse. As an aspiring writer who genuinely wants to get rid of that annoying prefix, you cannot afford to fail your muse.

The muse and the critic are like those members of the same family who can’t stand each other. As someone who needs them both, you need to take control and delegate their tasks. Importantly, you need to stop them from interfering with each other.

Let me give an example. I am a new mother and my baby is a perfect example. She is trying to stand with support right now and it is a matter of weeks before she would start walking. When she puts her first steps, all I want from her is to take her next step without losing her balance. What would you call me if I cribbed to you about her wobbly posture, unsteady gait and body language on the day she puts her first steps?

While writing Abhaya’s final draft, I was bitten this perfection bug which made me hover around the beginning chapters for no less than a year and a half! Progress happened when i did these things:

  1. Convinced myself that I would self edit the whole thing only after a whole draft is done.
  2. Plotted the story roughly and pursued the smoothest thread that kept my momentum up
  3. Set a hard deadline for the draft, and for the publishing date.

The rest as they say, is history. But I am glad that I could delegate it between my inner creative self and inner critic well enough to travel through three published novels and a whole draft submitted to the publisher.

What was your story behind sprinting through your first draft? Share in the comments.

 

Networking for writers. The company to keep. #Writerslife

Any writer would emphatically agree that writing is a solitary journey. But socialising with those on the same path is always a pleasure. Or is it? Well, at the risk of sounding super clicked, the answer is “It depends.”

But it does pay to be a part of a network that adds value to it’s members. That happens only if a considerable no of writer members believe in symbiotic connections over parasitical ones. From my experience of three years of author life, here are the networks that worked for me. When I say worked for me, I mean the ones which pulled me out of the snags I faced.

  1. Local meetups where there are at least 30% of writers who are published.
  2. Closely knit peer support groups who almost unconditionally support each other (The kind where you can ask any question and not feel stupid, celebrate each other’s progress, cheer each other, most importantly, give each other a push on the social media and other platforms). I am a part of one such a group called MyNoWriMo and we are practically ‘brothers at arms’, oops, ‘sisters in pens’. The key to successful groups like these is the mutual reciprocity.
  3. Facebook groups with a specific aim or positioning run by dedicated moderators. (“Writer mom’s” “5AMWriterclub”, FWBA etc). One such group, “Writer Mom Life” had a “Write every day” challenge running and it helped me sprint through the crucial part of my first draft. Often, these groups help members overcome specific challenges.
  4. Local charters of professional global networks. – Usually global networks have certain goals and the local charters have passionate leaders who want to make their charter shine through. ( I found the London charter of ALLi quite focussed. We would meet each month and share what we did each month, our discoveries, brainwaves, blocks and snags included).
  5. Culture/Ideology focused groups – I belong to this network called Indic Author network where most of us write stuff echoing the pathos and ethos of Indic civilisation. We have had invaluable sessions, socialised over various courses, have been gifted master courses and what not! The wavelength match too helps. And I got lucky with a celebrity endorsement too!
Now for the networks to avoid (On second thoughts, you may linger for entertainment and have some break time laughs)
  1. Rant groups – Sorry I could not find a better word here. But I refer to the umpteen number of these groups claiming to represent the underrepresented writers. I made the huge mistake of attending one gathering of a network supposedly supporting writers of color. For all the tall claims of inclusiveness, only one community was dominating. Adding to that, the programmes were full of ranting and had nothing of craft or business. Waste of a day.
  2. Large online writers groups with no specific aim. I am a part of one such group where every other day, there is a rant against Indie authors and best selling authors by literary snobs who have a lot of time to post rants but little or no time to share a good piece of advice. If you have a thick skin, these groups have some good entertainment value.
  3. Vanity groups – They charge you money just to let you in. And it is no mean amount. Lots of unrealistic promises are made and you end up losing money, time and motivation. While the above two have some value, this one is to be avoided at ALL costs.

What kind of networks have helped you, motivated you and keep you company in this solitary pilgrimage? Share in the comments

Cover Reveal – Destiny’s Girl by Adite Banerjie

Welcoming none other than the acclaimed author Adite Banerjie as she joins the Indie Author Band Wagon!

Can’t wait to read the book in its new Avtaar. Read the personal note by the author herself and remember to grab your copies. 🙂

Cover Reveal

Five years ago, my first book was published by Harlequin/Mills & Boon with the title “The Indian Tycoon’s Marriage Deal”. It was an exciting moment for me as a writer and I will always cherish that memory.

Strange thing is that I get to do a re-run of that moment yet again. But this time as a self-published author. I am hugely excited at the opportunity to revisit Krish and Maya’s story and bring it to my readers with a new cover and title. There could be no other month more appropriate for the re-launch of a romance than the Month of Love — February!

The story is now called Destiny’s Girl. And it has a brilliant new cover… I am sure you will agree with me!

I did wonder if I should update Krish & Maya’s story. But as I went through the manuscript, I realized that my protagonists are now not merely characters in my book, but they have their own fictional lives within the pages of the book. Who am I to change that? So, their story is presented as is, complete with its flaws and foibles — in real life we don’t get a chance to change our past, do we?

If you have read their story, I hope you will enjoy revisiting it again when  Destiny’s Girl goes online as an e-book on Amazon (stay tuned for the announcement). And if you haven’t read it, I’d urge you to read it!

And now… for the C.O.V. E. R.    R.E.V.E.A.L.  <Drum Roll, please!> 🙂

 

So here comes DESTINY’S GIRL….

 

 

 

……..

 

……..

 

……..

 

Destiny-Girl-final-cover

 

Would love to know what you think of the cover.

And wait…. there is some more news. Destiny’s Girl will have a sequel soon. It will be the Happily Ever After story of two characters you meet in Destiny’s Girl — Rohan and Natasha.

So, keep your eyes peeled for more updates on the release of Destiny’s Girl and its sequel.

May Valentine’s Month be full of love and happiness for you all!

Adite Banerjie