Friday, May 25, 2012

What are you reading now?

We writers drool over books the way people drool at the sight of food. I am sure I am one of the few people who goes gaga in bookshops and I just adore the smell and  feel of new books.

I am extremely possessive about my collection of books. Infact, friends who borrow my books have to suffer my frequent phone calls regarding how much they have read and when will they return the book.

Currently there are quite a few books on my TBR list.

1. Holes by Louis Sachar

2. Ash by Malinda Lo

3. The Puffin Book of Animal Stories for 6 -year olds (in which I have contributed a short story).

4. The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi by Peter Popham

Whats on your TBR list? Which book has currently snagged your interest and which author has captured your fancy now? We all would love to know what you all are reading now?

P.S. I am taking a blogging break for a few days. I will return in the first week of June. Till then, happy writing.

Friday, May 18, 2012

First drafts and rewrites

“The first draft of anything is shit,” said Ernest Hemingway. Its something I completely agree with. If anyone were to read my first draft they would officially disown me. My first drafts are written in long hand, on ruled sheets, because on plain sheets of paper my handwriting goes haywire. Every corner of the paper is filled with words as new ideas strike me.

 I read about a writer who has said that, “I am not a very good writer, but I am an excellent rewriter.” I agree wholeheartedly. First drafts are anything but publishable. Only we writers can make sense of it.

The first draft is just a collection of words on paper that makes sense only to the writer who through rewrites has to wade through the literary mess, sift and sort, and make sense of it. It takes several rewrites for writers to actually come close to querying.

I find rewriting fun. As the basic model or skeleton is ready, its now time to give it shape, to refine and remodel. To nip, tuck, chip and chisel.  

 Something that has personally worked for me is that after the first draft, I take a break of few days. I let the manuscript marinate in its own juices. During this enforced break, I catch up with reading, writing my articles for the newspapers and several other things. Though my mind is constantly hovering over the manuscript, I don’t actually sit down to rewrite.

This process is a lot like meditation, when  thoughts enter a mind during a state of meditative contemplation, we are advised to neither  ignore, nor encourage them. I write everything that comes into my mind during the first draft, even when I know I most probably will be deleting it later.

When I return, I feel I get a fresh and better perspective over the first draft.  Actually after each rewrite a little break is a must for me. It’s like giving each other a little breathing space. And when I return to the WIP, I am eager to tackle another draft. Though  the mental  connection with my  WIP  is constant, the physical distance is very therapeutic. I am then able to see the manuscript with its ugly warts. The glaring loopholes stare at me. With each rewrite I hope to plug the gaps created in ignorance.

Do you have any first draft tips for me? How do you all tackle your first drafts and how do you all handle the rewrites. We would all love to know.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Random Act of Kindness BLITZ!

A smile. An encouraging word. A thoughtful gesture. Each day people interact with us, help, and make our day a bit brighter and full. This is especially true in the Writing Community.

Take a second to think about writers you know, like the critique partner who works with you to improve your manuscript. The writing friend who listens, supports and keeps you strong when times are tough. The author who generously offers council, advice and inspiration when asked.

So many people take the time to make us feel special, don't they? They comment on our blogs, re-tweet our posts, chat with us on forums and wish us Happy Birthday on Facebook.

Kindness ROCKS!

To commemorate the release of their book The Emotion Thesaurus, Becca and Angela at The Bookshelf Muse are hosting a TITANIC Random Act Of Kindness BLITZ. And because I think KINDNESS is contagious, I'm participating too!

The moment I came to know about this blogfest, I knew I just had to participate. I think I am late in joining, but as they say, better late than never.

I choose my two awesome and amazing Crit Partners:

KimKoning, my first Crit Partner is my one of the  recipients of my RAOK.

 Mark Noce my second Crit Partner is another recipient of my RAOK.
There is no way I can forget to mention Angela Ackerman who so generously critiqued my query letter during the Christmas Holidays and made it shine.  

All three of these amazing writers and bloggers are wonderful additions to my writing life. They have enriched it with their insightful suggestions, helpful feedback and encouraging words.

Becca and Angela have a special RAOK gift waiting for you as well, so hop on over to The Bookshelf Muse to pick it up.

Have you ever participated in or been the recipient of a Random Act Of Kindness? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. My Random Act of Kindness is a first chapter critique to anyone who is interested. You can email me the first chapter and I will be happy to critique it for you. You can click on my profile for my email id.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sharing few plot points

I am still undecided whether I am a plotter or a pantser. For my last story I had plotted in detail. At times I found it restrictive, at other times it was a blessing, as I knew I had to move within the tracks I had designed for the story.

I am in the midst of writing my current WIP, about half-blood angels and devils. Though I have a rough idea of the way the story will begin and end and also bits and pieces about its middle portion, for the major part of it I am free floating, winging it with my imagination.

Even though, at times I love being a pantser, I have certain plot points I base my story on. I am sharing these plot points with you all.

Inciting Incident. Every story has this event. The Inciting Event is responsible for throwing the protagonist headlong into the path of trouble/conflict or problem.

Plan. It’s what the Main Characters decides to do, to thwart the obstacle, to bypass the roadblocks and overcome the Antagonist. This is a course of action the MC decides upon to tackle the problem at hand.

Game. Every conflict is like a game where there is only one winner; either the protagonist or the antagonist. The result depends on who plays smartly and aggressively. The game and its rules come into play here. Who has the odds stacked against them? Who is the Dark Horse?

Changing Obstacles. These obstacles in the story keep changing, very often they grow not only in size, but also change their direction and shape. The introductory of sub - plots comes into focus here. This change of direction can get the protagonist into more trouble and make the antagonist more powerful.

Plot Twist. These curves in the path of the plot help to set the pace. Many times plot twists happen when new characters arrive or the old ones wave a goodbye.
Sometimes even the unexpected actions of few trusted characters bring about a twist in the plot.

Dark Moment. This is the moment when the Main Character is left completely alone. He or she has to now trek the route to victory only on the sheer strength of his or her own efforts. External help may or may not come. But the war started has to be waged and the battle fought.

Epiphany. The moment of Epiphany brings about an illumination. It’s the moment when things fall in place and the path ahead is clear as though someone has showed the protagonist a roadmap complete with detailed directions. A light bulb literally lights up.

New Plan. With the moment of Epiphany a new course of action is charted, new plans made. Once again there is a change of speed.

Cliffhanger. The Cliffhanger sees the execution of the new plan/s. Will they bear fruit? Will the protagonist fall flat? Will the antagonist win because of the protagonist’s foolishness. It’s the moment that adds tension.

Climax. The final battle is fought. The protagonist is all set to do or die, while the antagonist is all ready to kill or be killed.

Ending. Where perfect resolutions find their true place and the loose ends are tied together. 

When I start  plotting, I base the outline of the story on these  plot points. I feel it helps me sum up the entire story and still gives me the freedom to deviate if I want to.

What about you all?Are you all plotters or pantsers or like me in between? How do you plot your stories? Is there any secret to plotting your stories? We all would love to get familiar with your individual processes, as I am sure we can learn a lot from it.

Friday, May 4, 2012

How do you choose a book?

We writers are in love with words. Others and ours. Not just write, we all love to read too. Nothing can absorb us so wholeheartedly as a world of words.

You guessed right. I am talking about books. When I am reading, I can disappear for hours inside the pages of a good book. When I am in the company of a good book, I don’t miss human company at all. I have stayed up till 2:30 a.m at night reading thrillers.

But, when it comes to choosing a book, I go for word of mouth. If the book has garnered rave reviews in all the media, then it definitely lands up in my TBR pile. Or if a friend has recommended it.

Sometimes, I pick up a book going by the blurb. If the blurb is intriguing, and ensnares me big time, then it will land up in my house. Though, beautiful book covers attract me, I seldom pick a book solely relying on the enticing factor of the book cover.

Sometimes, I am attracted by book titles too. If the title has really intrigued me, I turn the book over, read the blurb and then drop the book in my purchase bag.

If I am confused about picking a book, I try to read the first paragraph or two, just to get a faint idea of what to expect in the book. During those times, I act a bit like an agent. Interesting first lines can hook me big time. Many times, after an interesting first few pages, the rest of the book has disappointed me.

I also pick up books by writers whose earlier books I have enjoyed. In that case I am solely going by their track record.

What about you all? How do you choose your books? Which books land up in your TBR pile? How do you decide which book you want to read next?  

 P.S. In the month of May, I will posting only once a week, on Fridays, as I have set a deadline for the first draft of my Half-blood Angels and Devils book. I need to complete the first draft by the end of this month. I will still be visiting all your blogs. If I complete the draft before that, I will revert back to my usual blog schedule of twice a week. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Overcoming moments of madness

Everyone has moments of madness in their lives, where we get impulsive and do things we usually would not do. Later, we may end up regretting, or applauding ourselves for the rest of our lives. depending on the consequences of our actions.

We writers have several of these impulsive moments wherein we take up writing projects that we would normally not touch. I feel there are mysterious forces responsible for our bursts of literary genius. It’s during these moments that we are tempted to chose themes for our WIP. Themes that can range from the completely bizarre to the weird, from the wild and wacky to the strange and quirky. What starts off with an initial burst of promise sometimes takes just moments to fizzle out, and sometimes after several pages have been filled.

After I have penned down a few chapters, doubts crawl into my mind space about the commercial and literary potential of what I considered a future masterpiece. What if the manuscript finds no publishers? Will the editor approve of it, or will it be relegated to the slush pile?

 I have many unpublished manuscripts that were undertaken during those mad moments, but, after the first draft, they remained at the bottom of my drawer. I am not sure if I will ever rewrite them. 

I have realized that there are ways I can tackle my moments of madness, so that I don’t have piles of manuscripts lying unpublished and that I have not wasted time on commercially unviable projects that are a definite hardsell. Nowadays, only after I am certain that the theme/topic is worth pursuing, do I invest my time and effort in the manuscript. It’s pretty heartbreaking to be stuck with manuscripts that just won’t make the shift to the book form. Not every super idea can translate into a great book.

For every mad moment I have, I try to balance it with plenty of reasoning: practical, sensible and sound thinking.

1. Is the theme suitable for that age group?

2. Will the topic appeal to the target readers?

3. Will my treatment and writing style match the theme?

4. Will the reader follow the main character page after page? 

5. Does it have a conflict worth getting involved in for the readers? And for me too, as the writer? 

If the answers to all the questions turns out to be in the affirmative, only then do I plunge into the process of writing.

How do you all tackle your mad moments? Do you rush to put everything down on paper, invest weeks maybe months in a project only to shelve it halfway through, or do you weigh the merit of the theme, stack up the odds against the evens, before undertaking a project? Do you have moments of madness? Do you have manuscripts that you abandoned half way through? We would love to hear all your stories.