Monthly Archives: November 2015

ZERO HOUR WITH VAISHALI MATHUR (Executive Editor, PRH India) – Some insights, as collated by Ritesh Kala

During October, Sonia Rao, the NaNoWriMo ML for All India, organised a number of interviews and workshops in Wrimo India to get participants geared up for November. As part of this series, Ms. Vaishali Mathur, who is the Executive Editor at one of the most important publishing houses in India – Penguin Random House India – joined us for an online interview. She was amazingly patient with everyone, and took the time to answer every single question posed.

There were many insights, some which surprised me, and some which I have always known. An interesting point for me was that brilliant writing trumps almost all other considerations.

The following are the key takeaways from the interview:

  1. No market for short stories / novellas. Similarly, there is a very small market for science fiction. Traditional fantasy may be difficult to get published, as it would be compared to the books coming in from international authors.
  2. Ebook and paperback rights go hand in hand. Publishers will not do paperback only deals.
  3. Getting a literary agent can be important even though publishers accept manuscripts directly. It was clearly stated that manuscripts coming in from agents get read and considered first.
  4. Publishers do not reject a book outright. Also, how an author has been published earlier does not impact his chances now. What they do look for, is the author’s network and marketing capabilities.
  5. Publishing excerpts or even books on online platforms like wattpad or even social media are not held against a book. However, publishers will then consider how these postings have been received.
  6. Publishers are open to submissions from international self-published authors. This could be one way for authors to enter India, if they are willing to part away with India ebook rights.
  7. Publishers expect the author to shoulder the burden of marketing. This is especially true for first time authors. The author’s platform is something which can be the difference between acceptance and rejection of a manuscript for a debut author.
  8. A quick summary on things to keep in mind when approaching publishers:
    • For an editor to become interested in a proposal, it should ideally be short and crisp, with 3-5 sample chapters and a well written author bio. An author should look at getting an editor for the chapters being submitted, at the very least.
    • Poorly written proposals and proposals that begin with author’s story of desperation turn editors off and they thus have a higher chance of being rejected.
    • Also, a manuscript which is way too long for its genre will have a much lower chance of being accepted.
    • Besides this, it is fine to send the proposal to multiple publishers at the same time, but it is a good practice to mention that this has been done. Also, it is better to mention if the book is part of the series, and how many books there would be in the series.
    • The top three things to keep in mind when approaching a publisher are: You are competing with the best in the world, so writing has to be absolutely brilliant. Then pushing the book right from the word go and lastly, enough marketing.
    • Above all, the author should be sincere and should have complete belief in his work.

The above points resolved a lot of grey areas for aspiring authors. While the general guidelines as mentioned above hold true most times, I do believe a few things would change from publisher to publisher.

About Ritesh Kala:

ritesh_3

Ritesh is the founding partner of Read Out Loud Publishing LLP, a company started with the objective of bringing great literature to India. Read Out Loud is a Book Marketing and Book Distribution Company which aids authors to bring their books to book stores and online sales platforms in India. Read Out Loud also produces audio books.

You can connect with him on LinkedIn
Know more about Read Out Loud HERE.

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BROKEN PROMISES – A Peptalk by Shomprakash Sinha Roy

Let’s pretend for a minute, that we haven’t lied to ourselves over and over again – as kids, we had those dumb new year resolutions and birthday commitments that none of us could stick to. Through high school, those last minute ‘revisions’ perpetually reminded us of our failure to comply with the one basic un-natural part of an otherwise terrible life – routine.

We’ve all done it. Broken a promise, swallowed our guilt, compensated for them with ego issues and we’ve all moved on from the horrors of our past.

And then some of us wanted to write. I did, and if you’re reading this then there’s more than a half-decent chance that you did, too. A short story to begin with, a novella to feel good about yourself and a novel, maybe – a novel, just to tell yourself that you can. And it isn’t exactly as simple as a diet plan or a workout regime – there are no tangible results in this department.

There lies the dilemma – you might’ve written ten thousand crappy words or a hundred words of pure beauty, but you will never know if the outcome was worth the effort. As a published author, I wish I could say something to negate that theory, but I really can’t. There will always be times when pages after pages, words after words and manuscripts after manuscripts will fail miserably in the cruelty of your own critique.

Why then, must we continue to do what we once dreamed of doing? Why must we let that tiny child-like voice in our head win? The one that keeps telling us that our lives could possibly become a whole lot more meaningful, provided we were ready to slog for it? Why must we create anything at all, when we know that it will all come crumbling down one day?

These are valid questions, I kid you not. Happiness, however profound it may appear at the outset, is temporary. It is perhaps this great design flaw in our species, which motivates us to run after things that have the potential of making us happy. Money, material acquisitions, food, sex, love – the idea of being cared for by someone other than yourself, they’re all little lynchpins towards that one surreal goal – happiness.

So the question really is, does writing make you happy? Does it, even for a second, alleviate the pain of all those years behind you? Does writing make you forget who you are, where you are right now? Does it make everything else seem so mighty insignificant that you could just write… or die trying?

If it doesn’t, you should stop right now. Because as harsh as it may seem, this is at once the tiniest and strongest obstacle you will ever face. Life as you know it will go on, and there will be a million urges to quit midway. People will tell you that your work is hard to understand, that it’s full of typographical errors, that it’s either not commercial at all or worse – too commercial to digest. People will inspire you, like you, admire you, push you, threaten you, hate you, insult you, they will tell you things that generate deeper pathos than George R.R. Martin’s character development techniques.

So if you’re someone like me (someone who has a history of breaking promises backing them up) and if writing doesn’t kick the living devil out of you, maybe you shouldn’t do it at all.

But you don’t want to hear that, do you?

No.

You are in pursuit of a greater dream. You, dear Wrimo, have embraced a journey that ends in victory or death, but never in embarrassment. You just followed every word of this post and felt your blood pumping through your veins, fighting the urge to close this window or maybe just throw your device away. You know what that is?

That’s a shard of your ego trying to carve its place where another, stronger emotion deserves to exist – discipline.

I’ve never been a strong proponent of the concept, but then again, I’ve never been a scientologist either. So I guess I can talk about it. More specifically, I need to say this on the Wrimo platform because had it not been for NaNoWriMo 2012, I would never have finished writing my first manuscript. I don’t know how my stars were aligned, or if the zodiac guys decided to call it an off-month or something, but November 2012 proved to be the month where my inhibitions about quality, temporariness and ego fell through. I was churning words faster than I had ever done before, and it all came down to one thing.

Discipline.

The urge to endure through the difficult phase of keeping a promise intact. The early mid life crisis of those who have dared to fall in love or maybe just to read a poem and appreciate it for what it is.

It is the one thing that separates ‘good’ from ‘easy’. And it will lead you to your path, however obscure your goal might seem right now. Of course, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you it was possible to write 50,000 words in just under 72 hours. It is humanly possible, yes. But the desire to accomplish that feat cannot be driven purely by instinct, or some twisted form of revenge.

So accept it – the temporariness, the void, the possibility of a million failed books, the sheer unfairness of the publishing world – let all of that go down the drain. This is war. It’s you against yourself.

You can’t afford to lose that one, right?

So write.

About Shomprakash Sinha Roy:

Shom pic

Shomprakash Sinha Roy is an author of fiction, of Indian origin. A marketing managagement alumnus from the Indian Institute of Business Management New Delhi, he has three titles on shelves so far (The Pink Smoke, Life Served Hot and 21 Things About Romance). With honors like the Whistling Woods International Young Achiever Award (2013) and a Forbes Nomination (2014) backing him up, he still cherishes his first literary win – NaNoWriMo 2012, where he finished writing his first manuscript. He stays in Bangalore and is a fan of grunge music.

For more about Shom, click here and for his books, here.

 

HOW TO GET OVER THE NIGHTMARE OF MID-NOVEMBER – A Peptalk by Aastha Atray Banan

For me, the thought of writing is fascinating. But the actual exercise a nightmare. I find it very hard to sit down, collect my thoughts and then just go at it. But when I do, I usually don’t think much about it, but write as it comes to me. I don’t make plans, or strategize what which character is going to say or do. I just write as it happens in my head, in that moment.

Long periods of writing nothing have taught me that sometimes, cliché as it sounds, reading is the only way to get inspired. I read when I have nothing to write about, or can’t get myself to articulate what I am thinking or feeling. But I don’t just read anything. I re-read. I re-read books I have loved along the way, books that made me want to be a writer. I read books that comfort me, either with their stories of lovers and families, or with lines and passages that are so beautiful that I am struck by what wonderful people writers are and how much the world needs them to make sure we never lose that loving feeling.

And so I often find myself reading Jane Eyre, that dysfunctional, melancholic tale of a girl who never just gets a break, even when she falls in love. It may be a sad love story, but it is also one that says, that love triumphs everything. I also read Rebecca, which is so beautiful in its sadness it makes my heart stop. It deals with that familiar emotion – the feeling that we can never match up with a person our lover once loved.

I also re-read Agatha Christie’s classic and brilliant book And Then There Were None every time I want to be reminded of the fact that writers are geniuses. They can do anything in their books! I also read any of Haruki Murakami’s books, just to know that a writer has the capability of changing lives by just a sentence.

Once I am inspired by these great writers, it’s easy to get back to writing. I realize that I am doing something that very few people get to do – put my thoughts and feelings on paper. And if I touch somebody’s life by doing that, well, then it’s the cherry on top pf the cake. Writing is hard, but it’s also cathartic, and when you write, you can be anyone, and do anything. So, writers, don’t give up. Your book could speak to someone miles away from you. Write for them.

I know right now, you must be feeling tense and nervous, and even overworked. It’s tough to stick to deadline and word limits. Nobody knows that better than me, a journalist who has daily deadlines. But get rid of the self doubt and just keep your focus where it’s needed most: on the writing. Pick a time in the day where you have nothing else to do, be it early morning or late at night. And just start writing, whatever may flow from your fingers. You can revisit it later and edit. Know that, at the end of it all, you will be proud that you wrote so much. And it will give you the push needed for the next project.

Best of luck.

About Aastha Atray Banan:

Aastha

Presently an assistant editor with Sunday Midday

Twitter: @aastha82

Instagram: @aasthabanan

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aastha.atray

Books:
Games Girls Play (RUPA Publications)
His Monsoon Bride (Mills &Boon)

HOW I FINISH WRITING 50K WORDS FOR NANOWRIMO IN 3-4 DAYS by Zubin Garda

Since the last three years, Wrimo Zubin Garda has been completing his 50,000 words by the second or third day of NaNoWriMo. All have congratulated him, some with a tinge of envy and most with an incomprehension, wishing for some answers.

The cat is now out of the bag. Here’s Zubin, as he reveals to us his secret method (hint: it involves a LOT of writing):

HOW I FINISH WRITING 50K WORDS FOR NANOWRIMO IN 3-4 DAYS

I have been doing NaNoWriMo since 2013. Every year, I complete my novel (aka 50000 words) in only 3-4 days. It gets a lot of compliments, a few surprised faces and a rare few, with whom I’ve shared how I do the same, slapping their thighs as enlightenment dawns and shouting “A-ha!”

What I would like to do today, is share with you, dear reader, how I do this. Remember, this is how *I* do it. As always, your mileage may vary (but I doubt too much).

Firstly, there are no secrets. No magic formulae. Yes, there is a dependency on a particular piece of software. Other than that, anyone can do it.

So, rather than sound all preachy and patronizing, without further ado, here’s how I do it:

1) I take NanoWriMo seriously. Very seriously. Just how seriously? Well, every year, I take leave from my day job to work on writing the novel for a full week. Yes, I take leave for a full week, just to focus on writing the novel.

2) Wait a minute, did I say “writing the novel”? Actually, I don’t write novels. I don’t type them either. All this is done using Dragon Naturally Speaking (a speech recognition program). What, you’re still WRITING and TYPING those huge chunks of paragraphs instead of dictating them to your butler (ahem…your PC)? On a good day, I’m blowing around 110-120 words per minute. On a bad day, I’m clocking around 80-95 words per minute. Since any day is good and bad combined, I hit around 100 words per minute as a long-term average. Human beings are built evolutionarily such that the rate at which you speak, is EXPONENTIALLY higher to the rate of typing. Speaking is in Human DNA. Typing, well, you get the idea. So, an average speaker, will ALWAYS overtake even the world’s fastest typist. It’s simply the way humans were meant to be. Makes sense to speak to the PC then, rather than type it out, does it not?

3) I dictate only 3 sessions, for 2 hours each, every day. Sounds trivial. Until you see an average of 100 words per minute * 60 minutes = 6000 words per hour. Multiply that by 2 hours, I get 12000 words in one session. 3 sessions, so 12000 * 3 = 36000 words per day! That means I can finish my novel in 2 days flat! But, reality intervenes. It’s impossible to dictate even 100 words per minute continuously for 2 hours straight. Plus, even though I dictate in 2 hours sessions each (with 3-5 hours rest between each session), I still don’t have the discipline to bang it out for 2 hours straight. All this makes me type at around 70 words per minute. Which, you can calculate and get 70 * 60 minutes = 4200 words per hour. Which means 4200 * 2 = 8400 words per session. 3 sessions means around 8400 * 3 = 24900 (approx. 25000 words per day). THAT would also allow me to hit the target in 2 days, but again, I don’t REALLY sit for a FULL 2 HOURS per 3 sessions. You know, email, food, TV, surfing etc. right in the middle of my sessions’ two hours also. (I know, I know, I take breaks, but hey, cut me some slack here, I’m only human). The point here is not to tell you how much to write, but to give you the understanding of the full power of the speed of dictation, instead of typing/writing words.

4) Outside? Visiting someone you don’t want to? Wife dragging you out for shopping? Well, whenever I am outside, and have a quiet moment for myself, I open my ANDROID phone’s voice recorder (hey, iPhone works too!) and record my story. Right there. Yes, RIGHT THERE, outside, without my PC. When I come back, the recording, saved as a .Mp3 file is IMPORTED into Dragon. And Dragon magically TRANSCRIBES it to words! No need to re-type and re-dictate things again!

5) Next, remember, its called the novel WRITING month. Emphasis on the word WRITING. So I plan, outline (around 15-17 pages), do research and build up GSU (Goals, Stakes and Urgency) and simple character sketches BEFORE I sit on my PC to dictate. Ditto with the novel’s THEME and CONCEPT.

6) Finally my sainted family ensures I am not disturbed during the 3 writing sessions of 2 hours each during the day. And though this is not an absolute requirement, it does help tremendously.

7) Dragon Naturally Speaking. Available in normal and Premium. Hits around INR 10500/- ballpark. You can buy it. Or, there are “other” avenues (wink-wink).

So, as you see, there are no alchemical solutions to manufacture, nor the need to search the world for secrets. Simple mathematics and the power of dictation and help you blow past the month of November as if it didn’t exist. 🙂

However, as a final ode, remember I do all my planning, outlining, researching and building up of the GSU in LONG HAND. Yeah, you read that right. I take my fountain pen, a 400 page notebook and begin conceptualizing. Sometimes as early as middle of September. The advantage? I never run out of words to say or get to stare at a blank page wondering what to write next.

So, what’s your recentest wordcount? 😉

LOLLYGAGGING AND THE ART OF ZOOMING THROUGH NANOWRIMO – A peptalk by Krishna Shastri Devalupalli

Dear Na-No-Wri-Movers & Shakers,

If things have gone according to plan, you are all in front of your keyboards or touch-screen devices searching for that elusive first word of your high-speed novel.

Or, in front of typewriters or blank paper with fountain pen in hand, if you’re old fashioned.

Or, staring at the blank wall of your cave with a sharpened stone in your hands, if you’ve been transported to the Palaeolithic age via a time-machine made by S S Rajamouli’s art department.

Either way, you have 50,000 words to go and 30 days to do it.

That makes it 1666.66 words per day. That’s silly, isn’t it? What’s .66 of a word? Seriously.

I would’ve made it 25 days. A round 2,000 words per day. I tell you.

Be that as it may, here are a bunch of tips that’ll get you zooming through this like a jackrabbit on whatever it was that Lance Armstrong was having.

  1. Brag
    Get on FB/Twitter/Monkey Mail or whatever else your social media platform is and tell everyone you wrote 15, 653 words on the first day. Half the competition will drop out. Even if you don’t complete your assignment, who cares, you’ve got 3698 ‘like’s. I’d kill for that.
  2. Dress Right
    You’ve got the right duds on, half the battle won, dude. If you’re writing a period romance, dress in appropriate gear. Breast plate, thongs (for the feet, silly), codpiece, etc. Have a horse on standby. Personally, whichever genre I’m writing in, I wear an old Bombay Dyeing towel and an angavastram tied around my head like a turban. The former reminds me of Lisa Ray’s early ’90s ads and the latter keeps my head from exploding. Cool, right?
  3. Retell
    This is India, dudes – the land of a million copyright-free stories – where forty-year-olds go to sleep, nursing a warm glass of spiked milk, only when their wives tell them the same stories their grandmas did. So don’t break your lit-fest-craving-bestseller-hallucinating heads thinking up new plots. All you have to do is retell, repackage, rename and win this shindig. Where is that old Amar Chitra Katha collection, I say?
  4. Lie
    Announce, with immediate effect, that you’ve got a big-time publishing deal. You’re not lying if you’ve seen it clearly – even under the influence of over-the-counter hallucinogens. The thatastu devatas, prone to floating about without a care for no-fly-zones, might just say ‘So be it.’ Which is basically their job description. If that doesn’t happen, at least you’ve temporarily paralyzed the competition.
  5. Use Big Words
    If you’re running out of plot twists, do what I do. String up big words together in lyrical sentences. So what if they’re meaningless. Half the award-winning books are, too. For example, here’s a beauty I’ve used in several permutations and combinations:

The foofaraw of the hortatory was perspicacious. But did I prognosticate? Nay, you, pettifogger – poltroon that, you can’t lollygag me with your scofflaw!!

It is imperative to use several exclamation marks, semi-colons and hashtags.

All the best, my friends. More later.

About Krishna Shastri Devulapalli:

Krishna Shastri Devulapalli

Krishna Shastri Devulapalli is an illustrator, cartoonist, book designer, columnist and writer. He has written two novels, Ice Boys in Bell-bottoms and Jump Cut, and a play, Dear Anita.

How To Be A Literary Sensation: A Quick Guide to Exploiting Friends, Family & Facebook for Financial Gain his first work of non-fiction will be out in Nov 2015.

He is currently designing a car that can run purely on the gas generated at literary festivals.