Monthly Archives: November 2013

Keep calm Nanowrimoers, it’s not 30th Nov yet – Ruchi Vasudeva


keep calm      

So you’ve taken the leap into the giant wok of Nanowrimo and now find yourself floundering in the slippery oil of written – and unwritten- words. All around you, people are announcing they have crossed the mark, causing the pressure to mount as though you are the last wicket of Team India on the crease, required to score a winning six. A difficult but not impossible task. So keep calm. Not the count-to-ten type of keep calm. Rather, take a deep breath, roll up your sleeves and get typing. Yes, buddy, this is no time to be complacent!

Before we discuss the strategies which might help us go on, let’s examine why we lose our cool in this war of words J

Causes of panic

Help! I didn’t save my file The very top-of-the-list problem. And the most dangerous. It’s one of the things easy to know in theory and far easier to forget in practice. Nowadays you have a number of ways to backup. Dropbox. Pen drives. Hard disk storage. Even easier to do, just email the work to yourself. Back up, back up, back up…should be your hourly or rather every minute mantra!

My Muse has absconded! Muses are so apt to do that. Just when you need them the most. Though you might wish to, you can’t catch and bring back your Muse by scruff of his/her neck. The blank screen is the writer’s arch enemy but you have to find a way to beat it. One sure way is to read over what you’ve written and find that link, that off shoot that you forgot to explore. Now is the time to blend that loose thread in your story and make it stronger. Maybe your character left an old job to take up the current position. So why did she leave it? Get to the reason and it might show you a side of your character you never thought existed. Now you can write with a deeper understanding of your character.

For more ways to beat the writer’s block, check out this post from me.

Inner editor has woken up! The Inner Editor. Visualize Skeletor. Doctor Doom. Mahishasura. Inner editor is the enemy of the state for Nanowrimo-ers. There is only one weapon to tackle it. Only one word. IGNORE. Or prepare for your Nano winning dream to crash. This is not the time to worry about inserting the proper synonym or tempering your excessive adverb indulgence. Whether you write ‘walk quickly’ or ‘run’, just describe the action and get on with it. December is for fussing over things like that.

Now the positive steps to take to win this race. How to have that voice in your ear saying Bhaag Milkha Bhaag! 😉

To do’s

Seek inspiration Fill up the well continuously. Read. Take a walk. People watch. Take and make use of writing prompts from fellow writers…easily hounded at the Wrimo group J

Writing sprints I’ve personally found they are the best way to hike up your count. Sprints are great to make you focus and streamline your thoughts. Join in as many as you can.

Take proper rest and exercise. The mind is fresh only when the body is. Writers are all too prone to posture related troubles from spending too many hours bent over the keyboard. So do make sure you take stretching exercises or simply walk around a bit every half an hour. Your mind will be healthier if your body is fitter. So rest your eyes and your back and you’ll be more revved up than ever.

All the very best to all the participants. Remember that you’ve already won because I’m sure you’re doing better than you would have without Nanowrimo (at least I tell myself that to keep from sliding into deep depression of non achievement ;)) Kudos to the ones who’ve made it and the rest, don’t worry. It’s not 30th November yet!

Keep well. Write with love.


Ruchi Vasudeva is a doctor by profession, a teacher by vocation and, in her own words, an author by destiny. The writing bug has long resided in her and a contest held by Harlequin for Indian authors gave her a golden opportunity to have her dream realized. She debuted in August ’13 with her book ‘Bollywood Fiancé For A Day’. Her second book is out in December, both being published by Harlequin. She also won a contest for getting a short story published with Harper Collins. She writes romantic fiction with conflicted characters who come into their own in their quest of reaching out for love. She loves to write about spirited heroines getting hurtled out of their daily life as soon as they cross paths with their rather challenging heroes.

She lives with her husband and two kids. When not bent double over the laptop, she might be found with her nose in books or at the movies or glued to the telecast of Team India or Chennai Super Kings in action. She likes to take long walks which help in brewing story ideas! 


Light at the end of the Tunnel – Sharath Komarraju

Hi guys,

Week three is almost finished, and I trust most of you are at least three-fourths of your way into your respective masterpieces. If you’re beginning to get dizzy with all the writing, be informed that it’s perfectly normal, and if any doubts have begun to creep in about the quality of your writing, stamp on them and kick them out before they grow too big to handle. Generally speaking, when you go back and read what you’ve written, you will see that it does not suck nearly as much as you thought it did, but even if does, so what? Having something that sucks is better than having nothing at all.

This message coincides with the beginning of Act 3 of your novels, which is basically a fancy way of saying that you’re on the home stretch. Here you will have a ‘big scene’ in which your main character moves from being in a rut to seeing light at the end of the tunnel, and he begins moving toward it. Here’s where most of your book’s conflicts will get resolved, and at the end, of course, your character will either get what he has been gunning for all this while, or he will lose the battle (and yet gain something more important).

The most important part of this all is the transition scene in which Act 2 ends and Act 3 begins. Just like the transition between Act 1 and Act 2, we’re looking for a feeling of ‘no going back now’. Unless that feeling comes to your readers, we’re still in Act 2. So pay particular attention to this scene. It should be immediately obvious to anyone who reads your novel that Act 2 has ended and Act 3 has begun.

The second most important part of it is, of course, the climax, which represents the end of Act 3 and your book. Needless to say, you will tie up all the ends, and you will show how the character has changed from his first-page version. At the end of it all, of course, he will go back to his old world, but he will do so a changed man, with a fresh perspective of life.

Good luck! Almost there!


Sharath Komarraju is a mystery and fantasy author based in Bangalore, India. His first novel, ‘Murder in Amaravati’, was longlisted for the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize. Now, as he awaits the release of his third novel, ‘The Winds of Hastinapur’, due out in November 2013, he’s busy thrashing out a manuscript that doesn’t yet know what it wants to become when it grows up.

He spends most of a typical day locked up in a room talking to himself. He blogs about the writing life at

So you are a Nano Virgin? —Laxmi Hariharan

Why would anyone want to put themselves through the agony of writing 50,000 words in 30 days? That’s 1667 words precisely per day. Can you actually do it? Will you do it? Questions, killer questions. As someone who foolishly plunged in and managed to stay the course, here’s an interesting analogy. I wager thatyour first NaNoWrimois like falling in love for the first time. Here’s why:

  1. Just like being attracted to this person, you spend a lot of time circling around the idea of NaNo. Should you make the first move or not that is the question.
  2. Your head wars with your heart. Your heart says, go ahead plunge in take the step, you never know till you try. Your head says – what? Are you crazy? Right answer? No you are just a writer.
  3. Then it’s the turn of your ego. What if youfind out the feeling is not reciprocated (aka what if you don’t complete NaNo?) You are just going to feel horrible, terrible, awful, you know. Same ego replies: Aha! But wait till you start, for if you don’t finish I will be terribly hurt, so once you set off on this sojourn you don’t have a choice but to finish.
  4. You plunge in. Next thing you know you are falling—and already you sense nothing will ever be the same again. You feel that early flush of exhilaration, when you see everything in relief, like silver powder dusting the outline of here till eternity.Why did you ever hesitate?
  5. That is until that first signs of panic pierce you. Everyone else seems to be doing just fine, what about you?You have that sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach that you will not make it. Of course you never know what goes on between another writer and her words for each relationship is so unique. But then why are your pages failing you when you most need them?
  6. You look around in panic. Like a midsummer night’s dream your eyes latch onto the first friendly face you see. Help!
  7. Keep going, don’t look back. Eyes on the goal. Only see the centre of that target, your lover’s face. Don’t look left or right. Just straight ahead.
  8. Ah! There! The north star appears on the horizon. You know your feelings are about to be reciprocated. He loves you! He does. The words begin to love you back. You can see it take shape.
  9. Almost there! Just a couple thousand to go. Ha! How you have changed. Just a couple of thousand you said?That time is past when you measured your progress in hundreds of words. He really does love you. You can feel it. You feel more secure.
  10. He loves you. He really does and he said it aloud. Whew! So this is how it feels. You have uploaded your novel, got your badge. You have 50,000 repeat after me, 50,000 words under your belt. You feel like the queen of your own personal kingdom, and no one can take that away from you.

Now you decide you want to do it again. But you know it will never be as good as the first time!

Laxmi Hariharan is a kindle best selling author and a Huffington Post blogger. She completed NaNoWrimo 2012 – which is how she found her second novel in the Bombay Chronicles series. She also writes a weekly flash fiction series onthe mis-adventuresof Ruby Iyer, an unlikely heroine from the streets of Bombay city. Follow her @laxmi or at LAXMIwrites

Help! My Word Count Meter has stopped ticking – Adite Banerjie

So, you think you can write a novel in a month?

Difficult but do-able, right? With a bit of dedication, some discipline, a healthy dose of writer’s passion and lots and lots of caffeine you can overcome the beast that mocks you for actually taking on the challenge.

The first blush of an idea, the hot rush of adrenaline.I was primed and ready to wage war with words. And I jumped into the NaNoWriMo arena.

The words came pouring out. My fingers were flying on the keyboard and the wordcount meter (WCM) kept ticking at a steady pace. I was in NaNoWriMo heaven.

But then life happened. A few days away from the computer and I hit a roadblock. On getting back, I found that mymojo had disappeared and my inner warrior was no longer all pumped up and ready to do battle. Panic time!

I’m sure the scenario that I have painted above is precisely what many among you have experienced. But do not despair. It’s not the end of the world and you can pull yourself out of Word Count Hell with a bit of patience, grit and lots of coffee <insert your preferred beverage here!>

Here are a few tips for those times when your word count meter (WCM) has stopped ticking.

Think non-linear. Some writers work with an outline. Some don’t. If you’re like me, and can only think of your story in a linear fashion, i.e. x happens, then y, followed by z, try to reverse that. Why not think of m, and c or h. In other words, write the scenes that pop into your head, in no particular order. It’s most likely that once you have written one scene, it will be followed up by another, and OMG, yet another. Give the sequence (a cluster of scenes that follow in quick succession) a title and save it as a different file. You can always cut and paste that in an appropriate place in your manuscript later on.

Think conflict. Yes, that’s right and no, I don’t mean that you should go pick a fight with your spouse. If your WCM has stopped ticking, it probably has something to do with the plot or character development. Chances are the conflict in your story has petered out. Try to introduce a scene or a character that ups the stakes for your main character, put her in a tight spot, make life difficult for her. You will soon start thinking up ways of getting her out of trouble and you will be on your way again.

Think competition. A fun way to set the WCM ticking again is to compete in the write-ins and sprints that are going on round-the-clock on the Wrimo India Facebook page. Amidst all the fun and laughter, virtual cookie and chocolate sharing (and stealing!)  bring out your competitive spirit. Use some of the prompts – or don’t – but jump in. It will get you out of your funk and somewhere along on the way you would have kickstarted your mojo and WCM again.

So, good luck WriMo’s and don’t let the WCM stop ticking.Now if only I could use some of my own advice! 😉 Cheerio!


Adite Banerjie is a screenwriter and a freshly minted romance author. Her debut book “The Indian Tycoon’s Marriage Deal” was released by Harlequin Mills & Boon in September 2013. She is currently working on her second book for the same publisher. She loves to blog about writing at

“Don’t Sweat it.” – A NaNoWriMo Asia::India peptalk by Sharath Komarraju

Has anyone else felt that the previous couple of weeks have just motored along? It must be because all of us are having such fun. Once again I will begin with those of you who have, for whatever reason, not been able to keep up with the word count. In three short words: don’t sweat it. While it’s great to be target-oriented, it is greater to be systems-oriented, which means that if you can make a habit out of spending a certain number of hours every day at your writing desk, even if you do not finish by the end of November, you will eventually finish. The habit is more important than the target.

If you’re sticking to your target, though, that’s better but not all. You also need to pay close attention to the habit of writing every day, because chances are that come November end, you may have to spend some time rewriting or deleting what you’ve written. Perhaps you need one more month of polishing before you can send your work out. Even if all that isn’t true and your book is perfect in first draft, you still have to begin your next one, don’t you? So this is no time to be relaxing.

With respect to the structure of the book itself, those of you who are on track should right now be in the middle of Act Two, which generally corresponds to the lowest point in your protagonist’s journey. So that first incident which threw his life into chaos has intensified, and all his attempts to subdue his troubles have failed. At the middle point of your book, your character must be left wondering how (and whether) he will ever achieve his goal. From here on to the three-fourths point, of course, a new direction is sought, the pace picks up again, and the events of this part of the book will lay the foundation for the second big doorway through which your character will pass, where life will change all over once again.

I do wish you will stay the course as long as you can, and shun your family and friends for two more weeks. I am sure they will understand. See you all next week.

Sharath Komarraju is a mystery and fantasy author based in Bangalore, India. His first novel, ‘Murder in Amaravati’, was longlisted for the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize. Now, as he awaits the release of his third novel, ‘The Winds of Hastinapur’, due out in November 2013, he’s busy thrashing out a manuscript that doesn’t yet know what it wants to become when it grows up.

He spends most of a typical day locked up in a room talking to himself. He blogs about the writing life at

The ABCs of NaNoWriMo – Nikita Azad

While it’s great to have a plot ready by November 1st so you can just start typing (or scribbling) till your fingers hurt (or still go on even then) what I find as the biggest challenge is names; whether it is names of people, places, institutions – anything. At the NaNoWriMo 2013 Kickoff meeting in Mumbai, the discussion revealed that there were a few others who shared this dilemma. So I thought I’d help out a little bit.

Why are names so important when a rose by any other name would smell as sweet? It’s because for some of us, it’s impossible to take the story forward without knowing what your protagonist’s name is. How long can you keep calling the main character of your story ‘him’ or ‘her’? And it’s not just about the protagonist. It’s people like the best friend, boss,  villain, who need to have names too. For me, it becomes hard to imagine the person, their mannerisms, characteristics, if I don’t have a name to go along with it. So I devised a plan as simple as ABC. Allow me to elaborate.

At the beginning of NaNo when you’ve just started your novel, nothing is set in stone; not even your story, because the goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words. It’s about getting those words out there and everyone knows that the permutation of those words will change when you edit your finished novel. Those changes can, and mostly will, include a change in important elements such plot, dialogues, characters and their names, and in some instances, even the entire story. In short, what you need to keep your story moving forward in November is something to work with even if it is temporary.

To take your mind off the inane complexities of choosing a name and to enable you to make quick decisions, all you have to do is think A, B, C…. For instance, my protagonist, Anahita from Blue Bells High School was best friends with Czar Doctor and they lived on Elmer’s Street. Elmer’s Street?? In  Mumbai??? It’s ridiculous, I know! But, did you see what I did there? I picked a name from each letter of the alphabet, originally on a temporary basis, till I could think of something else. So from each letter of the alphabet, pick the first name that comes to mind and that will give you something to move forward. It’s how movies have Work Titles till they find a better name.

This totally worked for me. It made me write the story knowing where they lived, what their names were, what school they went to; without having to give it a second thought. And you know what? These are the names that stuck. Even though they don’t live on Elmer’s Street anymore, my characters are still called Anahita and Czar. Once I created them and their personalities, it was hard for me to change their names.

But sometimes, you don’t want every single thing in your book to be named alphabetically. So let’s look at an alternative strategy. You could play the ‘STOP’ game. It’s a two person game really, but it makes the work a lot easier. Remember how we played ‘Name-Place-Animal-Thing’? How did we decide the alphabet? I am not sure if there were other ways, but what we do is, one person mentally recites the alphabet at any speed and the second person’s job is to simply say ‘STOP’ at any time. The letter that the first player was saying (in his/her head, obviously) is what you name your character from. Again, it’s a lot easier if you think of the first name that comes to your mind.

Say you are thinking of names for a Hotel and you were stopped at ‘R’ it could be the Royal Star – not the most creative name but it was the first one to come to my mind. And if, while editing – preferably after November 30th – I felt that I didn’t like it, I could always change it by going through the traditional creative thinking route or the ABC way… 😉

Nikita Azad, based out of Mumbai, aspires to have a book deal (or two) before she hits the big three-oh. She may travel without make-up supplies, but you’ll never catch her without a book in her bag and a story in her head. Four years ago, she let go a possible career in finance to write seriously (that has been a point of debate, though.) On the way, she found she loved paper crafting and has been creating customised hand-made greeting cards for almost three years now and spreading happiness in her own little way.
You can see her craft work at

The battle is within. Win it. – A peptalk by Sharath Komarraju

So a week on, and by now you know which one of the following categories you fall into:

1. You are ahead of the curve
2. You are on (or barely on) the curve
3. You are behind the curve

For those in category 1, the biggest enemy is complacency. The first quarter of a novel is generally the easiest to write, so if you find yourself with a bit of wind in your sails, make sure you harness every bit of it in anticipation of slowing down in the future – because you will. For those in category 2, you’re doing well and all you need is to repeat the effort of the last week over the remainder of the month. For those in category 3, it is important that you do not lose heart. Yes, you’re competing against many people in this competition, but your biggest battle is with yourself. Remember that we promised ourselves last week that we will love the process no matter how it goes? This is a good time to remember it, and if you can, see if you can carve out an extra half-hour or so from your schedule.

Now with that behind us, I want to get you to start thinking of what you’re writing. I know that NaNo is all about writing feverishly without letting your conscious mind get in the way of the subconscious – and that’s an admirable goal – but it also pays to devote a certain amount of time every day towards thinking about the structure of your novel. One way – though definitely not the only way – is to think of your novel as comprising three acts. The three-act structure is thought of as the oldest technique of storytelling no matter what the medium, so while I respect the rebel in you, I would suggest you try it out before discarding it as useless.

So if I have to summarize the three acts in one paragraph, it would be this way. In Act 1, your main character is depicted in his normal world living his normal life. A disturbance occurs, and the character is reluctant to tackle it head on. But circumstances conspire such that the character is left with no choice. At the end of Act 1, he makes the choice which ‘changes everything’. Now there’s no going back, and he gets pushed into Act 2, in which the character and his hurdles get into a tightly locked combat and exchange blows. At the end of Act 2, there is another event which ‘changes everything’ and the character gets pushed into Act 3, in which he hurtles towards the climax – by which point your character would return to his original world but after undergoing some fundamental change.

In terms of proportion, Act 1 generally comprises the first quarter of the book. The middle half is Act 2 and the last quarter is Act 3.

Now, since you’ve finished the first quarter of your novel, perhaps it is time for you to sit back and think (very quickly!) whether you’ve got all the Act 1 requirements down pat. If you have, great. If you haven’t, make a note of it so that you can fix it in your second draft. As a quick reference, here’s what you should have by now:

1. A protagonist
2. An antagonist (even if the antagonist is non-human or non-living)
3. A disturbance that stirs the protagonist out of his world
4. An incident that ‘changes everything’, which forces the antagonist out against the antagonist
5. Secondary characters that will help your protagonist in his quest. (Think Dumbledore, Sam, Gandalf, Hermione, Ron.)

In our next post, we’ll talk about Act 2. Until then, don’t let those typing fingers rest!



Sharath Komarraju is a mystery and fantasy author based in Bangalore, India. His first novel, ‘Murder in Amaravati’, was longlisted for the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize. Now, as he awaits the release of his third novel, ‘The Winds of Hastinapur’, due out in November 2013, he’s busy thrashing out a manuscript that doesn’t yet know what it wants to become when it grows up.

He spends most of a typical day locked up in a room talking to himself. He blogs about the writing life at


One Bloody Step After The Next Bloody Step – A peptalk by Rasana Atreya

Hi WriMos!

I read an Alistair MacLean novel a long time ago. The title eludes me now, as does the story, but what I do remember is this – the protagonist is stranded in an inhospitable environment; he has been walking for days and is close to utter exhaustion. What finally gets him to habitation is the refrain that beats constantly in his head – one bloody step after the next bloody step.

Are you in a similar place writing-wise, struggling to put the next word down? If you’ll excuse the profanity, the sentiment of MacLean’s protagonist is novel-writing in a nutshell – one bloody word after the next bloody word.

Having written three novels, there are still times when I find writing hard work. For such days I have my own personal mantra in reserve (with due to apologies to The Little Engine That Could): I know I can, I know I can, I know I can. I know from past experience that once I get past this bump, I will cruise again.

As you read this, seven days have gone by.  Another twenty-three to go. Whether you plod through or whizz past – it’ll all depend on your attitude.

If you’re feeling your story has already run out of steam, and it is barely Week 2, you’re not alone. Whether you are a plotter (one who works with detailed plotlines), or a pantster like me (who writes by the seat of the pants), if you find yourself deviating from the plot, give yourself permission to embrace this new path. During the writing of Tell A Thousand Lies, my main character was refusing to do what I demanded of her. So I let her be; this led to the most delicious twist in my tale.

To prepare for my very first NaNoWriMo (this is my fourth), I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I took her advice to heart and turned off my internal editor before starting to write. I did not stop to edit. I did not pause to correct spellings. I did not slow down to fix grammar. There were days when I exceeded my goal, and boy, did that feel good! And there were days when I wasn’t able to meet the word count but, like they say, tomorrow is another day.

In Half A House, I did not have a clear idea of where I wanted the story to go. Instead of stressing on what I wasn’t able to do, I wrote mini episodes involving the main characters. Post NaNoWriMo, I stitched them together into a novel. Do you see where I’m going with this? (Hint: flexibility is the key)

So don’t let the details bog you down. You can always fix problem areas in later drafts. Get that first draft down! When you type that 50,000th word, the high has to be experienced to be believed. See you at the finish line!


Rasana Atreya is the author of Tell A Thousand Lies, an Amazon bestseller in various categories. The unpublished manuscript of this novel was shortlisted for the 2012 Tibor Jones South Asia prize.

As a successful self-published author, she was invited to be part of the panels in the 2013 Jaipur and Hyderabad Literary Festivals.

Read one episode of Half A House at

Chennai Meet-ups – Two POVs.

Meeting of Minds: Esai Arasi Speaks

This is my 7th year doing NaNoWriMo, and in all these years, Chennai still hadn’t seen a strong group of writers coming together in November. We have had a lot of participation over the years, but there has never been any meet-ups or write-a-thons after 2007.

All that was about to change.

When I walked into an almost deserted café at 11:00 a.m. on the 27th of October and started wondering if meeting-up at 11 a.m. on Sunday was a bad idea, when I heard a tentative, “NaNoWriMo?”

It was Kirupa, who had come in early, staked out the tables and had a handmade sign on the table proclaiming “NaNoWriMo”

I know it was a just a sign, but it was also a “sign” that this November, change is in the air.

As more and more people slowly kept walking in and we kept going over our introductions, the energy of the entire group soared.

Kirupa Gopi is looking to write a collection of short stories, first time at NaNo and already a rebel! Placed at HCL and waiting to be called in, she was the envy of the table with her commitment-free November.

Isabelle Masters is also one of the older members of NaNoWriMo, having already completed it a couple of times. Originally from California, shuttling between Chennai and Thanjavur, working 11 to 13 hours a day and she is still determined to finish NaNoWriMo well ahead of the 30th of this month.

Meera Rajagopalan, who also brought along the youngest members of our writing group, her three-year-old twins, is going to be juggling her work with under-privileged kids, trips to fun city with her cute kids and NaNoWriMo this month.

Vijay, who works as a game developer and is going to be writing back stories for the characters in the game, has also not just offered us his game studio as a write-in venue, but also given us free reign to use the gaming consoles there with a library of over 3000 games!

Then walked in Ragamalika and CJ Salamander. Ragamalika with her wide experience in multiple cities and jobs that includes working with a newspaper, immediately offered to help us edit our manuscripts when it’s done J

C J Salamander, which is his pen name, our very first about-to-be-published author gave us insights on life after the first draft. His success gave us all heart that age and experience sometimes just have to bow down to passion and commitment.

Then walked in Barneedhar, who woke up at ‘early morning 8 o’clock’ to get to the meet. Cheeky, funny, we would only see him again after his semester exams are over.

We discussed plot lines and story ideas, we discussed the challenges of juggling multiple things and still finishing NaNoWriMo, we asked each other for advice, and gave them away freely.

As we talked, I realized something. This is a group. Not just a random bunch of strangers sitting together making polite conversation. This is a group of people tethered by a strong goal and a stronger determination to achieve what we have set out to.

Phone numbers were exchanged for our Whatsapp group, possible venues for future write-ins were discussed and we knew we are going to ‘crush’ this NaNoWriMo.

After almost two hours, when Meera’s three-year-old daughter poked Kirupa to ask her when this meeting would end, she was in the distinct minority.

As we paid up and started leaving, there was one thing I knew for sure. At this table today we met our writing buddies not just for this NaNoWriMo, but for many, many more to come.

Through the Lens of Writing Wisdom by Isabelle Masters

We tend to think of writing as a solitary activity. We imagine the writer bent over his notepad or her laptop, fuelled by coffee and driven to create. Whether she sits in a cafe or he works at home in his study, the writer is alone with her work, conversing one-on-one with the paper, the pen his medium. This image goes hand in hand with the duality of the artist as either prolific or tortured (or both). It’s a captivating idea – the artist so nourished by their flourishing creation that they have no time or patience for social norms and niceties.

Of course, reality is rarely like that. The act of setting out to write 50,000 words in a month teaches us that writing is neither agonizing (at least not usually) nor effortless. Writing is work – and it’s work that doesn’t have to be done by oneself.

That was the premise of Chennai’s first write-in, held Sunday, November 3rd at Axham Games’s Chennai studio. The eight writers who came were a mix of first-timers and old pros. We sat on two couches and three chairs, cheerful and chatty, introducing our novels and ourselves, discussing our experiences so far.

Once the first word sprint began, of course, things grew much quieter. We started with a fifteen minute burst. The change was immediate; suddenly the only sounds were the whirr of the fan and the clacking of fingers on keys. Buoyed by our success, we went for a longer stretch – thirty minutes.

After a short coffee break, we came back for our last write of the day, a twenty-minute long race (the winner was treated to a sandwich at Quiznos). Some of us were ahead of our daily goal, others were behind, but during those hours we all wrote something. One of our participants typed his first words of the month, and others caught up from where the rush of Diwali had slowed their writing down. Our word counts may have ranged from 100 to 7000, but everyone left with more written than when they had arrived.

But write-ins aren’t just about writing. They’re about creating a community of shared experiences and support, about talking about the part of your plot that’s not working or the sentence you just can’t get right. They’re about friendship. They’re about making writing a novel more than a file on your hard drive, more than a cursor blinking on a blank page in Word. They’re about looking around the room and realizing that you’re not the only one embarking on this crazy, intense, illuminating journey.

Writing may be solitary, but at least we can be alone together.