At 3pm, on Monday, the 12th of September, Kunzum Travel Cafe in HKV, New Delhi saw an eager-beaver crowd of wrimos and non-wrimos throng it for a workshop on creative writing, “A Celebration of Creative Writing” jointly powered by Readomania and Wrimo India.
This two hour session was an interaction with these three well-known writers:
The session opened with an introductory welcome by Dipankar Mukherjee, followed by an introduction of the three authors and a brief about what to expect from the two-hour session.
The authors spoke about their journey of writing their first novel – the initial idea of the story, their process of writing, the struggle to get published and also the challenges they faced during and after their first book. It was a lively and interactive session with the audience asking questions and authors sharing their experiences, creative writing tips and advice.
The first speaker was Sriram Subramanian, author of Rain, who told us how he got into writing.
“I wanted to write something that would blow up everyone’s socks off,” he began, explaining his high ambitions for the book and his style of writing.
He shared the journey of his first novel which still remains incomplete and unpublished. His second novel, Rain, is the story of a man who is seemingly an atheist and questions the existence of God.
Sriram shared the thought process behind Rain and how the final draft came into being. He told the audience that Rain was based on one theme – the debate between reason and faith and had a story or arc of a characters that wasn’t a blind believer in God to begin with and whose experiences makes him question his faith even more. The book is about how the protagonist deals with it.
Sriram admitted there were two movies, Waqt and OMG!, with the similar theme of a man’s disbelief in God; the impact of natural calamities on his livelihood, and the extent of man’s limitations against such acts. He then went on to explain how his novel Rain is different from both movies.
Sriram pointed out the following differences –
- There is no act of force majeure in this novel.
- The moment of ruin is not early on in the story but halfway through the novel.
- It is a series of events and not one single life-altering moment as it was in Waqt and/OMG!
- The ending is different, too. The protagonist is experienced and wiser and yet still holds his beliefs.
The floor was thrown open to audience questions.
Question: “How much is autobiographical?”
Sriram: First novel almost all is autobiographical, for most writers, said Sriram. Second one that I writing now still has shades of me in it. But the third one is completely different.
Question: “How much of your character remains an atheist?”
Sriram: He remains a sceptic, but based on logic and rationality rather than blind disregard.
Question: “How many rounds of edit do you go through before you think it’s ready/complete?”
Sriram: There were several. Even at self-editing stage, I did a round of developmental editing followed by line editing. Then again two round of spell check and a final read through, so four rounds before I sent it.
Radhika Tabrez, author of ‘In Light of Darkness’ then took stage and narrated her journey of her first novel.
While wielding audience questions, Radhika advised the participants to figure out that one story that they feel most strongly about and cannot manage without telling it to the world.
“Be dispassionate about your own work, and while it’s difficult initially, with time it gets easier. “
She advised that if during the process of self-editing, you give thought to what’s important at the core, you will find the irrelevant parts jump at you automatically for them to be removed.
Manjula Lal, author of ‘ThePresswallah’s Journey’ who has also read both the books shared her feedback, after which she spoke about her own book.
She also narrated her experiences of working in newspapers, publishing houses and her journey as an author. She told the participants how she tries to be different as an author than what she is as a person. This meant that even though her novel is based on her experiences it may not necessarily be a reflection of the real her. This revelation was interesting for the newbie writers who for the first time realized it was possible to keep the two entities (of the person and the author) separate.
On her own journey as a novelist, she shared her frustrations, challenges and her journey of rejections for two years before Readomania expressed interest in her novel.
Her simplistic approach came to the fore when she said that a good book is one where you don’t struggle to reach the end.
That was not just surprisingly easy to imbibe but also encouraging for the participants as they realized they could well manage writing such a book.
What made the discussion even more interesting was that the Ms. SutapaBasu, editor of ‘ThePresswallah’s Journey’, herself a bestselling author with her novel ‘Dangle’, was amongst us and shared her insights and advice.
Some important take-aways for the participants –
Character driven/plot driven –
Plot-driven is one where the story has an entire arc where the story unfolds, has a conflict that resolves and has an end. It is narration of an adventure where the protagonist may encounter and overcome challenges but the experiences do not change his as such. The reader’s interest is held together by ‘what’s next?’.
Character-driven is one where the story is about a protagonist’s journey, so they need to be strong enough to carry the story on their shoulders. It is a quest where the person beings with a different set of beliefs and principles, and by the end of the novel is a different person.
Point of view from the first person narrative or third person limited and third person omniscient.
How to avoid head hopping? Change in POV can be done across scenes or better still, across chapters (but never within the same scene or it amounts to head hopping).
develop the person as if it’s a real person – give them quirks, likes, dislikes, give interesting traits, all along the way (right from the beginning).
Don’t let them become predictable.
events should unfold interesting action. Don’t let scene not have anything happening in it.
Relatability – Seek reactions from people who are in the same profession as your characters.
Quality of Writing –
- Do not write as you would speak. Spoken English is very different from written English.
- Let your writing sit for some time before you read/edit/approach it again.
- Go through multiple rounds of self-editing, with a three-month gap between each edit, before sending it to a publisher.
- Avoid Indian English. There is a huge difference in the usage of the words ‘marriage’ and ‘wedding’.
- Introduce variation in length of sentences.
- To be a better writer, read.
- To improve upon a piece of writing that you think is not impactful enough, try reading it aloud.
Ask yourself, “what is in there for the reader? What is in there that prompts the reader to question or ponder, without it being preachy?”
(How to avoid) Plagiarism–
Be extremely well read to be aware of what’s been done/written before. And after that try and narrate everything in your own voice. The settings, characterizations, treatment/resolution of a crisis would give an element of originality to your story, even if it’s been done before.
On taking Back -ups –
Email your writing to yourself.
The engrossing session shot well past its time of two hours and had to be cut short with the organizers deciding to do away with the creative writing exercises due to lack of time. It concluded with a joint note of thanks from Readomania and Wrimo India. Participants were requested to share their feedback on the event page, along with a reminder to keep an eye out for more such events.
Overall, it was a great learning experience for all those present.
This report is written by Piyusha Vir, who is the NaNoWriMo co-ML for Delhi Region.
Piyusha is a sometime sane reader, part-time crazy writer and full-time wacky alien. You can either find her on her blog Wandering Soul – writing insane articles that defy all logic; or in the kitchen trying to salvage the burnt chicken that her father will turn up his nose at. She, in partnership with a writer friend, has also recently started a writing-related venture – Beyond Coffee and Words.
Readomania is an Indian-based publishing house, making a splash in the Indian publishing industry with its different and interesting collection of offerings like Defiant Dreams, Dangle, Cabbing All the Way.
New writers and aspiring authors can publish their short stories, poems, and write-ups for readers and feedback on their online platform – readomania.com
Wrimo India is the India chapter of the non-profit organization – NaNoWriMo. It was founded by NaNoWriMo ML for India region, Sonia Rao, as a safe space for wrimos to hone their writing craft through sharing their writings and giving and receiving feedback. We conduct write-in sessions, talks and meet-ups, to encourage aspiring novelists and NaNoWriMo participants to attempt writing their own novels. Know more about NaNoWriMo by visiting their website- nanowrimo.org.
Connect with Wrimo India on Facebook -https://www.facebook.com/NaNoWriMo.India/
(Pics courtesy Readomania and Piyusha Vir).