Monthly Archives: November 2014

Milan Vohra asks, “Who said you should write?” – A NaNo2014 peptalk

There are way too many things we think we should be doing. At this point, at about 4:45 a.m. as I write this, I can think of about 199 things, off-the-cuff. They range from deep, soul-growth ‘shoulds’, like “I should meditate everyday”, “I should volunteer at the old age home next door every Sunday”, “I should be gentler on myself” … to more mundane ‘shoulds’ like “I should change the wi-fi password so my son lives more in his books and less on Facebook”, or “I should start making sprouts from scratch at home!”

There is something about the word ‘should’ that almost always makes me want to mentally suffix the word ‘but’.

‘I know I should, but…’

So let’s come back to the start. Who said you should write? Nobody held a gun to your head and said “Hey! <<Insert your name here>>, you should write!”

Why should you kill yourself and not watch ‘Gone girl’ before it’s gone from the theatres? (Reviews notwithstanding). Why should you have to wait till the dog is walked at night, the doors are locked, the rajma soaked and even the neighbour’s TV has gone silent so you can finally hear yourself think? Because you think you should write?

‘Should’ in my experience is a word best used to get teenagers to do the opposite of what you want them to do. “Sweetie, you should stay in bed all day today.” There’s a very good chance the kid is going to demand to know why.

So when that annoying voice in your head stopped you from meeting your friend for coffee, because it said you should write, did you ask the voice “why’?

Let me share a short true story. Some months ago I agreed to write a screenplay for somebody. After the initial delight and disbelief that somebody wanted me to do it though I’d never written one before and was even willing to wait for me to be freed up from my existing commitments – a delayed reaction set in. “I know nothing about writing screenplays!” “Aren’t there all sorts of rules about formatting…text that must be centralised, words that need to be capitalised?” What on earth was I thinking!?

“I know!” I told myself. “I should order some books on the craft of it and get educated.” Books, bought, speed reading initiated. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Heavy underlining. No words put down yet. “I should attend a workshop on it and fast track the whole thing.” I did. Only, another idea kept popping up in my head and on my pages. Seducing me with its possibilities and distracting me constantly from the screenplay I was supposed to complete by November 15th! The ‘hauvva’ or bogey-man of the unfamiliar format grew bigger. I was now waking up in regular cold sweats. “Silly silly me. I should get that software they all said is so brilliant at the workshop.” I did. It spoke in Geek to me. More tick-tock. Tick-tock with wings!

Any of this sounding familiar yet?

“I know I should write, but…”

But, but… I’ve gone and planned the story with characters living in countries I know nothing of. And none of these characters are even Indian! Of course! “I should research everything about these totally foreign characters, even the flavours of ice cream popular in these places!”

I should remember to back up. I’m sure I did. Yet – the software gobbled up most of what I’d done, one night before the deadline.

Every single ‘should’ that had built up into a series of obstacles merged and immobilized me into a ‘deer caught in the headlights’ reaction.

‘I should just quit!’ It was like a chant in my head. It would be so simple to call the guy, say, ‘I’m so sorry, here’s your advance, please take it back, please.’ Then I could sleep. 0h, I so wanted to sleep. Also, I wanted to cry. So I did. I had a quick, alone, why-me, poor-me cry.

And then I forced myself to write. Just one sentence, I told myself.

I sat back to look at it. “I should finish this screenplay.”

MV 1A

 

I heard my inner voice ask, ‘Why?’

Tentatively, I struck out the word ‘should’. Above it I wrote another word. ‘Could’

MV2 (1)

It felt a little liberating. That word ‘should’ carries so much pressure.

Maybe. “I could finish this screenplay.” Hmmm…

It felt better but still sounded iffy. I wasn’t convinced.

I added some more words to the sentence.

MV3

I made one last revision. Struck out that ambivalent ‘Could’ and replaced it with a decisive ‘Would’

This is what I finally had.

MV4

“If I really wanted to, I would finish this screenplay.”

I tell you, it was an epiphany!* Now when I saw that statement, I knew with a deep knowing that of course, I really want to! I knew when I took the assignment on, it excited me. In a good, scary way. It challenged me to do something new and actually I had grown to like these people in my story. I wanted to see them through to the end. To that last Credits Rolling shot.

I’m guessing you signed on for NaNoWriMo  for a similar reason. Because that good scary feeling when you decided to challenge yourself is something you chose to do. Because you really wanted to! Tell yourself this, with love, as you make those words appear on your page. Tell yourself…

MV5Final

And you will!

From someone who wrote and lived to tell the tale,

Milan

About Milan Vohra:

Milan Vohra is an author, advertising consultant and an insomniac. She enjoys writing ad campaigns by day and fiction by night. One of her short stories won a nationwide Harlequin contest and brought her into the international spotlight as the first Indian Mills & Boon author. Her book “The Love Asana” became an unprecedented bestseller and also brought her priceless experiences like being on a BBC show with the legendary Penny Jordan. The Love Asana is now being translated into several languages. Milan has also written YA (Young Adult) stories for Penguin in ‘Love like that and other stories’ . She has written short stories on subjects like sexual abuse and its genesis, transgender identity conflict for Unisun Publishers in ‘Vanilla desires’. And another soon  to appear in a Harper Collins anthology. Milan has written a musical comedy called “Maid in India’ and scripts for Season 1 of the Emmy award winning show Sesame Street for Indian TV. Milan’s latest book is ‘Tick-Tock, We’re 30’  by Westland Publishers, It is a fun, reflective rom-com about old friendships, new chemistries, and imperfect urban relationships.

Milan’s real claim to fame, she says, is that she is the world’s best worst dancer.

You can also connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

* thanks ‘Heal your life’

 

 

 

 

 

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Kiran Manral says, “Breathe.” – A NaNo2014 peptalk

Dear NaNoWriMo Author,

It is mid November, your mind is sludge, you’re midway through a book you thought was just fabulous when you began but now that you are perhaps, 20k or 30k words into it, you look back, read through what you’ve written, shudder, tape your fingers together to prevent yourself from deleting what you’ve written because you think it is horrible, terrible and by god, it would be a Mother Earth Swallow Me Now moment if you ever let another living soul read it. What on earth possessed me to sign up for this, you tell yourself, while simultaneously self flagellating yourself with the Cat-O-Nine-Tails of negative self talk.

Breathe.

This is normal. We have all been there.

You will hate what you have written. You will go through doubt and schism and chaos. You will detest your characters, want to reach into the screen and give them a good shake up, you have also probably reached a dead end or two in your plot where you’ve needed to go back, retrace your steps, rewrite what you’ve written and change things around a fair bit. What you have down on the computer is nothing compared to the glorious, glistening gem of a novel you had in your head when you started out, in fact, it doesn’t even come close. You hate it.

Breathe some more.

This too is normal. And the urge to delete what you have written so far will pass.

Step back a minute from the page. Don’t look at what you have written so far. Don’t be tempted to re-read what you’ve done. What you have done is a first draft, and first drafts are meant to be reworked. And reworked. But it is essential to get that first draft down as swiftly as possible before that ephemeral magic of the tale you want to tell fades away. Write down your first draft.

Put down word after word, sentence after sentence, if nothing comes to mind, put down dummy copy.

Trust me that works. You can always go back and delete the dummy copy later.

Take a break while you are writing. Drink coffee. Make some phone calls to friends or loved ones. Read the newspaper. Distract your mind. Think about anything and everything except the book you are writing. Let your subconscious marinate the plot, the characters, the situations for you.

Set a timer. When your alarm rings, get right back to the keyboard and type. Don’t wait for the muse. She is fickle and rarely shows up when you want her to. She will linger around, watching, and when she sees you are going to get down and get writing with or without her around to help, she might just float beside you, look at what you’re putting down and if you are lucky, very very lucky, she might just consent to brush a smidgeon of her magic across your keyboard and clear the cobwebs from your mind. And when she does, you will know. You will feel it. But you can’t wait indefinitely for that to happen. You owe it to the book you are midway through to complete it, to see it through to the end, bitter or happy. Only you can do it, only you can put down the story in your head.

The thing is to write. To keep writing. That is the only way that books get written. You have to keep moving forward. A paragraph. A page. A chapter. Bit by bit, you build up the precious first draft. And there, at the end of the month, you have it. You will feel the pride, the sense of ownership, of accomplishment. And that nothing can ever take away from you.

Keep writing.

In solidarity,

Kiran Manral

 

About Kiran Manral:

Kiran Manral was a journalist before she quit to become a full-time mommy. She is one of India’s top bloggers and also a Tehelka blogger columnist on gender issues. She is also considered a ‘social media star’ on twitter by the TOI. IBN Live named her as among the 30 interesting Indian women to follow on twitter and among the top 10 Indian moms to follow on twitter for 2013. Sheroes named her as among the top 20 women influencers from India on twitter in 2014. (http://sheroes.in/articles/must-follow-women-influencers-on-twitter/NDAw)

Her debut novel, The Reluctant Detective, was published by Westland in 2012 and her second novel Once Upon A Crush, was published by Leadstart in May 2014.
She was awarded the Women Achievers award by Young Environmentalists Group in 2013.

BITING THE BULLET – ATTEMPTING FICTION: A NaNo Experience by Madhuri Maitra

My novel Equinox, is a NaNoWriMo baby, product of my diffidence and perseverance through the month of November 2013. I had decided to bite the bullet- attempt fiction, after my books of poetry.

I made preparations. My favorite comfy clothes were laundered and ready to wear. I threw in a quick beauty treatment a day or two before so I wouldn’t obsess over that stray hair or overgrown nail. I stocked up on dry fruit, my healthy nibbles; several flavored teas, too. Bought grocery for the month (hubby promised to take care of weekly veggies – buying and sometimes cooking them as well). He was also advised to forget that I existed except when I wanted to sound out my ideas – he was happy, or relieved , and always interested in the fate of my characters.

How I loved November 2013 – an exact year ago! I would wake up at 5am, make a tankard of coffee and hit the keyboard, get in a couple of hours of writing. I had planned my characters and I distributed the 50000 words among them. I had plotted the events on a scrap of paper. Both word distribution and plot eventually went askew, but when I woke up each morning, I knew what I had to write about that day. It was usually ready in my head, so I only had to let it spill on the screen.

Around 7 I took a break to do the daily chores, and sat down again by 9 or 9:30am. I would work again until lunch, a quick nap and back again.

I am a day person – my work day ends around 6 or 6:30pm. On an especially inspired day, I would work until 8, but never later. The research happened sometimes, concurrently with the writing, on an as- needed basis.

In 15 days or so, I had crossed 40,000 words, went out of town for a wedding.

Upon my return, the last10,000 words were not the piece of cake I had expected. While I was able to pick up my routine, I had not thought the story through and had to really chew my pen for an interesting ending.

Next time, while I shall reprise the dry fruits, the fave comfy clothes and the teas and the coffee (and occasional brandy), my priority will be to think through several alternate plots even before I begin.

Good luck to all those writing this year!

 

About Madhuri Maitra:

Madhuri Maitra is a teacher, a writer and a film enthusiast. She has written Haiku and other Micropoetry, an offering of about ninety short poems on nature, love and God. Her maiden novel Equinox (buy it here or here) is a slice-of-life that takes you all around India.

She teaches Creative Writing and Film Appreciation at Symbiosis International University; writes poetry, fiction and non-fiction; and devotedly watches as many celluloid offerings as her schedule allows.

She conducts Life Skills workshops under the umbrella of Dignity Foundation, an NGO for senior citizens. She also conducts training sessions in English and Soft Skills.

Currently, she is planning her travelogue and she continues to savor the pure joy of reading, writing, praying and living.

 

Aarti V Raman says, “Fall in love.” – A NaNo2014 peptalk

I am listening to Jason Mraz’s Clockwatching and it’s such an apt song for what the month of November stands for, for a special breed of creature. This creature is recognizable by the copious amounts of coffee it consumes, has a perpetually glazed look and can be found muttering to itself, mostly in dark corners. Its best friend: A laptop.

I am talking about the WRIMO, my fellow writers, a creature so brave as to attempt writing an entire novel of 50,000 words in 30 days. Call it a quest, a hunt, an adventure, a dream come true, call it what you want but there is nothing braver and scarier than sitting in front of a blank screen and waiting for inspiration to strike you, much like lightning does. And chances are, lightning might, but inspiration is a very tricky babe. And then cajole, curse and coax this tricky babe into helping you out till you hit that magical number: 50,000 and THE END.

There are many pitfalls on this obstacle course (another nickname) but the first and all-encompassing one is called Writer’s Block. Or as I like to call it: ‘Go scream into the pillow because I am worth nothing’ Syndrome.

Some say write on, others say write crap, still others say sit back and review, don’t write till you’re sure. But when you’re writing your magnum opus in 30 days it’s a bit difficult to shake those gremlins of self-doubt and plod on. I, personally, suffer from Writer’s Block every other day that I am writing and I know of no cure to make it better except to fall in love.

Predominantly, I write about love. Two strong people falling in love, with each other, with life, with the work they’re doing and with love. It’s not necessarily always romance (of the hand-holding, declarations of love types) but it is love. Chaotic, consuming, can’t live without each other kind of love, as the inimitable Carrie Bradshaw says. And love, my friends, is like riding a dragon. The only way to tame it is to let yourself go.

And the only way to let go? Fall.

It took me four seconds to look at a W cover of a half-naked Hugh Jackman to decide I’ve found my hero, my Brandon Rice. The White Knight I am dying to write about. With Krivi Iyer, it was a mix of several different heroes, all of them hunky and damaged in their own ways. And with my new MS (that’s unfortunately not a part of NaNo2014) it is a single image of a strong man with very strong values and a work ethic, heroically not breaking down despite overwhelming odds. I got that image in my head and BAM! my block ended, I fell in love with my story and the words started flowing again.

Needless to say, not everyone has a hero’s image fixed in their head when they write, but it does help to fall in love with that one thing that keeps you connected to your story. Every day, for all the 30 days and nights that your laptop becomes your best friend and worst enemy: It could be an image, it could be the lines to a song, or a complicated plot map that you took ages to make and that is taking shape in chapter and verse.

Once upon a time a young girl (a two years younger me) had a small dream. She read Scott Westerfeld’s opening Nano Peptalk and imagined the honor, thrill and joy she would get if it was she who was talking to her fellow writer friends. If she was telling them to write on, never stop, not even when November ends.

And so, I will end my piece with just that thought. Write on. Never stop. Not even when November ends. Your novel deserves it and so do you.

XX

Aarti V Raman aka Writer Gal


BIO:

Aarti V Raman is an established novelist in the romantic thriller genre (White Knight, Kingdom Come). 28 year-old Aarti V Raman is a Mass Media graduate from Mumbai University. It was as a student of  Creative and Professional Writing at Deakin University in Melbourne that she learned to hone her craft and achieve her lifelong ambition of writing romances that had strong characters and stronger stories that remained etched in the reader’s minds.

Her first novel “White Knight” was published by Leadstart in 2012. In 2013, her work was excerpted in the Tamil Edition of Mills and Boon novels. And in 2014, her short story “Post-Coital Cigarette” was chosen to be part of the Rupa Romance Anthology, “An Atlas of Love,” curated by bestselling author Anuja Chauhan.  Her latest novel “Kingdom Come” (Harlequin MIRA) has enjoyed a brief stay on the bestseller lists of  Amazon India. She is represented by Red Ink Literary Agency, India.

Her book, Kingdom Come, is available on Amazon and Flipkart.
Check out White Knight here and here.

Aarti loves to hear from her readers and friends on email at kingdomcomethebook@gmail.com, on Facebook as Aarti V Raman-Author and on Twitter @RT_writes

 

Usha Narayanan says, “Have fun.” – A NaNo2014 peptalk

Hi WriMos!

So, you’ve climbed on the NanoWriMo bandwagon and pledged to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Congratulations! You’ve already taken the first step by signing on. And you’ll have the support of thousands of other writers who will be accompanying you on the journey. The euphoria is strong and you feel the wind beneath your wings. Make the most of it.

Start with your main characters. Have a broad idea of where your plot is going. Write down ten or twenty quick ideas and build your story around these. Pepper your story with conflicts. Move the plot forward with every chapter. Action, emotion, dialogue, narration ― everything has a place in your novel.

Feel the fear, the joy and the love that your characters experience and then recreate it for your readers. Liven up your scenes with smells, sounds and sights. And don’t leave your keyboard at the end of your day’s writing without some idea of what will happen the next day. Why is the heroine upset? Will the hero be able to fight off the threat? Let your mind work on it as you sleep.

Or write a few sentences of your next chapter before you shut down your computer. That is a surefire way to stave off writer’s block.

Yes, you may come upon that dreadful day when you sit staring at a blank page, not knowing where you are headed. Your title seems dumb and your characters foolish. You don’t know why you started this whole exercise. Don’t worry, that’s normal too. Just unclench your jaw and skim through what you’ve written till now. Maybe your characters have come alive and are refusing to go quietly down the path you have laid out for them. Good for them, and for you. That’s what makes them leap out from the page and grab your reader’s attention.

Play along. Have fun. If you are writing a thriller and get stuck, kill somebody. A love story? Have the hero do something crazy to woo his girl. Let your zest for life spill over on your pages. That’s the secret of a racy tale.

Good luck!

 

Usha Narayanan is a writer from the colourful world of advertising and media. Her first novel, ‘The Madras Mangler’, (http://goo.gl/lRMHgr) is chock-a-block with chills and thrills and has received several favourable reviews. Her next two novels, a romcom and an action-packed fantasy, have been picked up by leading publishers for publication in 2015. Connect with her at www.ushanarayanan.com, www.facebook.com/writerushaand www.twitter.com/writerusha.