Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What has Triggered our Writing Passion?

I have just returned from a fabulous holiday. My brain is still woozy with everything not related to writing.  Sitting on the beach watching the sunset my mind drifted to what triggered my passion for writing. I don’t know why water has that effect on me.

I am sure that there is something or someone who has triggered our writing passion. It could be a book we must have read, a person who has become a sort of writing mentor or perhaps our English teacher in school who set us off on our writing journey.

One of the earliest influences on my writing was my grandmother. Every night while making me eat my dinner when I was around 4 to 5 years old she would tell me stories. These were more often than not folktales, or, stories that revolved around the Hindu Gods and Goddesses and the great Saints of the past. The tales of the various Gods' childhood pranks was absolutely wonderful. It brought each God to life. 

My passion for writing has its roots in my childhood. I was a voracious listener then, never tiring of granny’s stories, craving them hours after the dinner plates had been washed. Long after she gave up the practice of making me eat my dinner, I continued to badger her for stories. Granny, I am sure exhausted her well of stories, but, not one to admit defeat she made up stories just for me. 

For an entire week she told me the same story giving it different endings. I asked her why she was telling me the same story with different endings, she laughed and said “I am running out of stories, child.” 

Each ending changed the entire story. From humorous it turned into suspense, and then moved to the battle of good over evil. Each story was embedded with a moral. I am sure that it was deliberate, to make us imbibe good qualities and emulate the noble characters who peopled her story. I was fascinated by Granny’s quick thinking. My love for stories: listening, reading and writing started then. One of my first few published articles was the story she had narrated to me during my childhood. Unfortunately, she passed away before the story was published.

Though the stories were repeated she never bored us, as she embellished the story with each narration. Sometimes adding few characters, at times dropping few. This habit of hers has inculcated in me the practical experience of finding out how the same story can end in many different ways. Yes, at times I toy with different endings and finally zero in on the one I think works best for my stories and books.

What has been your earliest writing influence? Did someone prompt you to start your creative journey? What made you all start writing? Was it a person? A book? A teacher? We all would love to know about what triggered your passion?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Salvaging Rejected Manuscripts

I am sure many of us have a few manuscripts which are sitting idly in the bottom most drawer of our writing desks. These are the manuscripts that have done their rounds of agents and editor’s inbox and been politely turned down.

There are also the manuscripts that we have abandoned halfway because we have moved on to another project that has excited us more. We writers do have a couple of manuscripts that I would tag as practice manuscripts that have helped us find our writing voice. These are also the manuscripts that we have practiced our writing skills on. These manuscripts need not be completely abandoned
  1. Even in our worst stories there are a few redeemable scenes. We can use these scenes as short stories by making a few adjustments.

  1. We can also if time permits serialize the manuscript and send it as a serial to magazines or newspapers that publish such work. A writer I know in Bangalore whose book did the rounds of many publishers serialized her book as 18 episodes. These were carried by a newspaper for the children’s section.

  1. As most of us have chosen the genre we write (I am assuming that our unpublished work belongs to the same genre as our current work) we can lift a few redeemable scenes from the unpublished work and add them into the new one.

  1. Another suggestion would be to rewrite the entire book keeping in mind every thing we have learnt along the way. This does require time and lots of effort but the result is worth it.

I plan to rewrite a manuscript. I will definitely be letting go of many scenes, but on the other hand I also now know what is not working in that particular book.

What about you all? Do you all have a few manuscripts in your files? What are your plans for those manuscripts? Are they going to be relegated to the files? Any plans of making use of these manuscripts? Do share your views.

As I am going out of town, my next post will be on 28th Feb. Till then, keep writing.

Friday, February 17, 2012

What does Blogging Mean to me ?

When I started blogging, nearly two years back, I barely knew what blogging was all about or what I would blog  about twice a week. Infact, I always thought I would stop blogging a few months down the line.

But, it’s my 23rd month and I have continued with my blogging and have gathered a vast number of amazing writers in my friends circle.

Blogging for me initially was a platform building tool as I was advised by someone who I consider a writing mentor that agents looked for a writer’s online presence. So, reluctantly I took the plunge.

I was extremely nervous for the first few weeks. I would spend days planning a post. I am sure I could have written a manuscript or two in the time I took to plan and write posts. Slowly, I gained confidence. I started scheduling my posts.

But, as time has passed, I have completely forgotten about the building a platform part. I have connected with a whole lot of wonderful writers and bloggers from all over the world. Many of who have gone out of their way to help me. I even met my two crit partners through my blog.

Blogging for me is also a way to discuss all things writing related. I just cannot discuss this with my non-writing friends who all find excuses to do a million things they have left halfway through, when I mention plots, characters, humour, resolution, edits or revisions.

Blogging has taught me more about the craft of writing than the three craft books I possess. Every blogger is an angel in disguise, eager to help out, support, encourage and promote another writer. We have all shared whatever we are learning in our writing journeys. Bared our hearts, exposed our fears and frustrations, shared our good news with each other.

Over time Blogging has become a way of connecting with other writers from all over the world.

Nowadays, I feel I am kind of addicted to you all wonderful people who live inside my computer. If I don’t get visits from you all, I feel kind of low. If I don’t drop in to your blogs, my day is incomplete.

Why did you all start blogging? Was it just to build a platform? Or was there another reason for it? What does blogging mean to you? Have your views about blogging changed with time? We all would love to know your views.
P.S. Is anyone else having a problem with certain websites and blogs (Samsung mobiles, Nokia and few florists) leaving their ads in the comments section? Does anyone know how to get rid of this problem? As none of these blogs are my followers, I can't even block them.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Going Global - Guest post with Author Stephen Tremp

Today's guest post is with my blog buddy Stephen Tremp, author of two successful books: Breakthrough and Opening. Here Stephen shares tips on going global.

Rachna, thank you for hosting me today on my Grand Opening Tour! I’m very excited to visit Rachna’s Scriptorium and your amazing group of followers. My topic is Going Global!

Our world is becoming much smaller. Borders are disappearing. We have the ability to communicate to anyone anywhere in real time. Example: as writers, we can research people and places for our works. Need to know what a particular hotel or restaurant in Singapore is like? Just read Yahoo! user reviews and you can write an accurate and descriptive scene that will make that chapter come to life for the reader!

 Global Characters
It’s important to develop characters that are from different parts of the world. I have characters from or with a heritage to India, Korea, China, and Japan among other places. Living in southern California, a mosaic of people from around the world, this is vital to writing a novel that people can relate to. And it’s a great way to target a much wider audience.

Global Marketing
The British once clamed they had an empire in which the sun never set. Because of this, much of the world speaks English. Approximately 350 millions people speak English as their primary language and 600 million people as a second language. World wide, about 1.8 billion people speak English.

This opens up large markets outside the U.S. for writers like me. The blogging community is awesome in that I can connect with amazing people like Rachna and we can share our works and ideas with each other and those who we connect with.

Airport Bookstores
Airport bookstores (especially international airports) are a great way to get your book to people and places all over the world. Have you ever noticed the continuous line of people at the register buying books at these places? There are three major airports within driving distance (Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego) that I am working with.

Street Sales
I used to have book signings at a Borders Books and Music near Orange County Airport. People with long layovers would stop in to buy books. It was a small goldmine. Lots of sales and lots of people from around the world buying my book!

But Borders is now out of business. So I took my cause to the streets. I can set up shop with the same sign I used for Borders book signings and sell them to the locals and tourists (I live in southern California). There’s no overhead except the gas to drive there and a cup of Starbucks coffee. I’ve sold books to people from Europe, Asia, India, even the Middle East. Tourists from Japan seem to love my book.

Translating to Another Language
Has anyone had their books translated into a different language? I’m considering translating Breakthrough into Japanese. I’m wondering about the cost. If I can do this for a reasonable price I’d like to move forward with it.

Question: what do you do or what have you seen in global marketing that the average writer can use to promote and sell their books?

“A scientific breakthrough of such magnitude it could radically alter the future of humanity—for better or worse—is in the wrong hands”

Stephen Tremp, author of the BREAKTHROUGH Series, has a B.A. in information systems and an MBA degree in global management. Stephen has a background in information systems, management, and finance and draws from this varied and complex experiential knowledge to write one-of-a-kind thrillers.
His novels are enhanced by current events at the European Organisation for Nuclear research (CERN) and other scientific research facilities around the world. These potential advances have the ability to change the way we perceive our universe and our place in it!


You can visit Stephen Tremp at Breakthrough Blogs. OPENING can be downloaded at:

Amazon for  $1.99
Smashwords for $1.99

Thank you Stephen for this insightful post. We all wish you lots of publishing success. If you have any questions for Stephen, he will be glad to answer them.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Using Serendipity and Co-incidence in Stories

I read a book some time back where the author had used heavy doses of  serendipity and co-incidence in the story to resolve certain tricky plot issues. As I ploughed on through the story, I was hopeful that the author would explain the reason why certain knots in the plots were being unknotted so easily and quickly.

But the reasons were not explained. Needless to say, I was disappointed and felt cheated that the author had simply used these devices as a cheap way to resolve a dilemma within the plot.

Both Serendipity and Co-incidence are unavoidable in fiction. But an excess of both provokes incredulity in the reader’s mind. The reader will wonder how and why the protagonist is getting lucky time and again. Excess of both can also lead to the story getting bogged down by being syrupy and sticky.

Many times I have used both serendipity and co-incidence to resolve issues in the first draft. I always make it a point to go over these and tweak them into scenes that  depend less on these devices. And if by chance I do overlook them, then I have my two amazing crit partners to catch my flaws.

 I feel if we writers follow the cause and effect theory we can turn both serendipity and co-incidence into devices which work in favour of our stories rather than against our stories. There has to be a reason for every action of the character. Relying on reasons we can dispense with incredulity. Even fantasy fiction has to have its basis in believability.  

Have you ever encountered serendipity and co-incidence in stories you have read? What have you felt about it? Have you personally resorted to using these devices? What is your opinion about it? 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Innovative ways to Introduce the Main Character

Last year, I struggled with the first chapter of my Middle Grade Paranormal Trilogy (I rewrote it several times), but I am still not happy with it. I keep thinking that I can introduce the main character in a more powerful way.

I introduce the main character when he (a nine- year old boy) is getting a scolding   from his father for being a wimp. His father wants him to fight back the bullies in his school. The father is urging his son to punch a few bullies.

I have toyed with several ideas to introduce my main character. Every idea in my opinion sucks. Whatever our main character does has to tie up to the story or it has to have consequences later in the story. We usually introduce the main characters in the first chapter, often in the first paragraph. I am trying to think of different and unique ways to introduce my main character.

 Plenty of ideas have entered and exited my mind. Should I introduce my main character  while he/she is doing something unusual that immediately piques a reader’s interest. This unusual activity has to have repercussions in the story. Else it makes no sense. It will be just an exercise in futility.

 I read somewhere that we can have our main characters engaged in a unique hobby ( perhaps looking after sick birds) or going through their collection of animal bones or lizard tails or moth wings  or even cleaning their stolen item collection. I am sure that these activities will  turn the readers off rather than intrigue them into reading more and wanting to get to know the main character better.

If I was the reader I would wonder why the MC is collecting lizard tails or moth wings. Or why has the main character resorted to stealing. I would brand him a sadist and a kleptomaniac and hate him for his traits.

Does anyone have any tips on an innovative way to introduce the main character. Which openings do you think attract readers and which introductory scenes put them off. Please share your views with us.     

Friday, February 3, 2012

Why do we Writers need a Day Job?

Writing as a career option is not a very lucrative profession; the hardships are many and rewards few. Unless one is working as a journalist in a newspaper office or a magazine establishment and is assured a regular pay cheque at the end of the month, writers by and large do not make a good income from just their writing. Unless and until they have received a huge advance or movies are being made from their books.

Many people assume that as writers we are flooded with advances and royalty cheques. But that’s not the case with all of us. For most of us in India, there is no question of advance, very few publishers endorse that, for most it’s a royalty at the end of each financial year. And we do gasp when we see the royalty cheques; gasp more in shock than surprise.

 A writer’s life comes with its fair share of frustrations and a lot of struggle, that’s why it becomes important for writers until they make it big to cling on to their day jobs or atleast have a part time job. This assures a regular income and security while one is struggling to establish a writing career.

Money is indeed a great boost to a struggling writer’s ego and self-respect. Atleast one aspect of life is taken care of while we struggle to establish our writing careers.

The regular day job also diminishes the frustration that our writing career throws up as we are assured that atleast we have a job and there is money in our  bank account and that we are not  spending time pursuing a career that’s just not taking off. Just imagine the scenario if writers were to live solely on the income provided by their writing.  It would be one stressed human, tearing his or her hair out and  struggling financially.

How important do you think a day job is for writers? Do you think having a steady job helps a writer. Ofcourse with a day job there is less time for writing, but the financial worries and fears are taken care of in a big way and there is also the option to leave the jobs whenever our writing careers take off. What are your views on this? Please share your opinion with us.