Monday, 31 August 2009

100th Post Milestone

And since this is the 100th post, let's do something different. Here are the pics of some of my favourite characters....fancy anyone?

Sunday, 30 August 2009

September Word Count Challenge

Time for setting goal again... For September, it's little harder to set a definite goal for several reasons. I will be away for the first week, so that's one week gone. And I will not be working on any of my Indian Fiction books for now, only Fantasy books. So my word count will be limited to less number of WIPs. I am still planning revamped WIP 2, but hope to start with the first draft soon. It will be a brand new first draft, rather than a re-write, because the whole story is different - just the theme and characters remain the same. This is the WIP I hope to work in september. So word count goal - 30K again. What are your writing goals for September?

Saturday, 29 August 2009

How to make one character MC?

As I have mentioned in few posts before, I am totally revamping my Fantasy WIP 2. But here is the dilemma (some good questions were raised after reading Lady Glamis' post on MCs over at the Literary Lab) - I don't know whether to have one main character or three. I did decide to make the hero my central character instead of the heroine. But the hero will be working with two other people (one of them heroine). All three of them have equal status, and there is a valid reason for three of them being together. But I feel as if having 3 MC is too much. Should I just have the one MC and make the other two simply two major view-point characters? I think one of the problems is that in the first version the heroine was the main character, and I am finding it really difficult to move her down. Her role is important, but the only way to make the hero a main character is to make her less important. (I don't mean important in terms of who she is, but rather what actions she will perform in the story.) Unless I make it multiple MC story. Any suggestions? I can't really think of many good stories (except for literary novels) where there is more than 1 MC. There are great major characters, but in fantasy especially, usually just one main character. All opinions appreciated.

Friday, 28 August 2009

What Gender are the Characters that Speak?

Are your lead characters and/or POV characters, same sex as you? Did you choose that particular POV on purpose? When I first started writing, all my leads were females, but I nearly always used to use multiple POV so the writing would be done from both a male and a female POV. Now, to my surprise, more and more of my men are taking over stories. WIP 2 for example, which has a first draft with the woman as the lead is going to be turned into the man's story. He is going to be the MC. I may use multiple POV - not sure yet - but the story will be a man's. What I have found is that for the most part, it makes no difference. I feel that the exercise of getting into a character's head depends on how well you understand that character, regardless of the sex. But what I do find is that for the most part, I am very reluctant to diminish my female's role as the main character. So I find myself wondering if they could both be main characters. It's very tempting, but quite doubtful, because while many stories may have many major characters, there is nearly always, just one main character. It has to be clear, whose story it is.

The psychology behind that reluctance is quite clear. I am a woman. I like strong, female leads. I like strong male leads too, but I suppose with a female lead, it's somehow feeding the inner dream that hey, that could be me in some alternate univerise, kicking ass (alas, in this life, I can only throw verbal punches.) Though I must say that my male taking over the lead in no way diminishes the strength of the female characters. In fact, most of the time, it's because those poor men must suffer so they have more to tell. How do you feel about switching sexes of your main characters? Does it matter to you whether they are male or female? Whoever has the best story to tell, that's my main character. Regardless of their gender.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

How much of a help is Free Writing?

Many writing books recommend free writing or “morning pages” for beginning writers. But how useful is it? In my opinion, not very. I have been keeping journals for years, and I have never had an issue with writing itself. I can write pages and pages, but does that make me capable of producing quality fiction? I don’t think so. It may help of course by improving one’s language ability or prose, but even then, not by much because free writing by its vey nature is supposed to be editing free. I am not against free writing. In fact, I think it could be very useful to get the creative juices flowing. But I don’t think it’s fair to tell writers that if you write 5 pages every morning, you have potential to become a published writer, or that it might improve your craft. One of the most important things towards becoming a published writer is ability to finish a project, until it’s the best you can do. Free writing, with its assortment of ideas, doesn’t teach that. In couple of writing workshops I attended, I met people who were following books like “Artist’s Way” and writing their morning pages, but nothing else, and they did believe they were making progress towards becoming a writer. I disagree. What do you think?

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Advantage of Writing Craft Books

I am participating in Absolute Write Blog Chain again this month. Corrine asked me this question: On your blog, you mention reading quite a few craft books. What have you found useful in writing craft books to apply to your own work? Have they been more or less useful than writing classes or critique groups, if you've been involved in these? I have found craft books very useful. In fact, it has been my main method for acquiring knowledge of techniques and methods. I read many blogs and articles of course, but they almost always discuss merely the surface of things, whereas books go indepth. I have never been involved in a critique group, and have only attended short, day workshops for beginners. The workshops were fun and good to get creative juices flowing, but not useful. Main reason being, they were aimed for beginners, and I found that by beginner a lot of other writers present simply lacked confidence to write. I don't have that problem. I also feel that unless the workshops/critique groups are led by regularly published authors, there isn't much point. It's not to say that other people - beginner writers and readers - can't give me good advice, but the problem is that there is so much conflicting advice, it's hard to determine who is right. At least if it's coming from a regularly published author, you know for sure that they know what they are talking about. That's where writing craft books are advantageous. I don't just read all random books. I look at them carefully and determine if they have use for me. I also look at who or what they come from. For example, I own several writing book from Writers Digest Publishing. Writers Digest is a reputed, professional enterprise, and so I have faith in their books. Now, I am not saying that I do every exercise these books tells me to. In fact, for the most part I haven't done any. But I absorb what they say, and from that, I learn more about a good book is put together, so that when I am looking at my own manuscript, I am more aware of things that should be what's missing. Before, I used to look at my first draft, and know that it wasn't good enough but without any clue as to how to fix things. But now, because I have been studying craft books, I know more about the ingredients. When you know what's supposed to be in a recipe, you can play around and mix it to your own taste. So in conclusion then - good writing books that give you solid (ideally step-by-step) direction for how to do something are definitely useful. I don't much go for inspirational type books that just talk about writing rituals and getting inspiration and stuff, because I don't need that. I don't need anyone to tell me that I can be a writer. All I want is knowledge of craft that could only come from experience or from learning. Question for Forbidden Snowflake You started your blog to record your journey to improve self-discipline and write 100K words. Has having a blog to record your progress helped you? What do you do to motivate yourself to write? And what is it that demotivates you when you can't write?

Monday, 24 August 2009

How do you plan a series?

My recently finished WIP 2, is supposed to be a Fantasy Trilogy. I know what happens at the very end, and I know some things that happen in between, but that was about it when I wrote the first draft. After that first draft though, I have decided to replot. I am not changing the essence of the story, but I am making significant changes in the story line itself, and cutting off some characters, so this time I was wondering if I should have a bit more detailed plan for the whole trilogy before starting the re-write of the first book? How do you plan trilogies or duologies etc? How much do you know about the next book in the series? Things could change of course when you come to the second book, but I feel that it might make the first book better to know bit more details about the next two. Perhaps that might help adding more layers to the story. What do you think?

Sunday, 23 August 2009

August Word Count - 37K + Not Counting

I did decent job in the beginning of August, and reached word count of 37483 by 17th of August in my novels. But from 17th - 0. And it's most likely to stay that way for a while, because I am reevaluating forward plan. I have almost decided to let my Indian fictions alone for now, and focus only on Fantasy/Sci-fi (which for now is only Fantasy). In Fantasy, I have two complete first drafts, but I intend to replot both of them and make considerable changes, and I am plotting a new WIP for NaNo, so currently, I am just plotting, not writing. Sometimes it's tempting to start writing because I feel as if suddenly my word count ability would drift off, but I have also experienced first hand that directionless writing is not for me. So this time, I intend to attempt it right (for me) with detailed plotting. Unfortunately, detailed plotting takes time. I am not working on Epic Fantasy at all for now - just WIP 2 and the new WIP. For WIP 2, I have made a decision that would change everything. First draft is written from a female POV. I intend to change the story and make another character MC, a man. I think he has got more challenges to overcome than the female, so that should hopefully make a more interesting story. But if I don't start writing, I am never going to meet my 250K goal for 2009. Decisions! Decisions! But I think here, I might sacrifice quantity in favour of quality. How are your goals for August coming along?

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Saturday in the Centre

Off to the town centre - no, no shopping - just bookish First stop - Starbucks in Borders Bookshp; have a coffee and a browse at books; work on plot for new WIP Second stop - Beautiful central library; get books for hubby for next week's city break to Berlin; work on plot for new WIP And that my friends is what I call a wonderful Saturday plan

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Have you found your perfect genre? Is it one or more?

How many WIPs have you got going? Are they all of the same genre? How many genres have you tried writing? Why not just stick to one? A lot of the people whose blogs I follow write in more than one genre. Many of them are more logical choices like fantasy writers who also write sci-fi, or romance writers who write erotica or paranormal romance. But what makes you branch out? The first draft I ever wrote was historical romance. At the time (teenage years), I was really big on romances, especially historical. The next draft was Indian fiction. Then Fantasy. I also started plotting a sci-fi novel, though haven't written that yet. I tried different things as different ideas came to me. I read a variety of things, so I am interested in different genres. But after experimenting and by process of elimination, I have come to realise that category romance and erotica are not for me. Working on different genres at the same time - I have two conflicting views. First is that it's good to have multiple wips in different genres because you are thinking about completely different things. Negative thing is that it takes focus away from one genre. What's your experience?

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

15 Books in 15 Minutes

Following up on yesterday's post about movies, let's do books now.

  1. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho This book has evolved with time for me. The first time I read, it was just a pleasant story. The second time I read it, many years later, it became my bible. The Alchemist is the book that will give as much or as little of the message as you are ready to receive at the time.
  2. God of the Small Things – Arundhati Roy Such poetry of words, without loosing the urgency of story. Just sheer beauty of the world was enough to make this book a forever favourite for me.
  3. The Black Jewels Trilogy – Anne Bishop This is my TOP COMFORT BOOK. Too tired to do anything, or just not up to starting anything new, then comes out this trilogy. I no longer read it cover to cover most of the time, but just open it up to my favourite passages, get a little dose of comfort. Daemon Sadi…what’s not to love?
  4. Banewreaker – Jacqueline Carey I like this Jacqueline Carey’s debut Kushiel series, but this is my favourite of hers. This is a part of a duology. Sunderer was good too, but this is something special. Again, beautiful prose. But in this one, Carey makes us feel the pain of a god. Satoris is so wonderful crafted character that his pain was very touching.
  5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix – J. K. Rowling Though I am a Harry Potter fan, I wouldn’t class the writing as brilliant. It’s the story and the characters that make it so appealing. But of all the books, I think the 5th had the best writing, as well as dramatic story.
  6. Twentieth Wife – Indu Sundersen This is a historical fiction for one of the most famous women in Indian history.
  7. The Other Boleyn Girl – Phillipa Gregory I have always been fascinated by Anne Boleyn. This book witnesses her story from her sister Mary’s side, and Mary’s story herself. It’s one of Gregory’s best works.
  8. Persuasion – Jane Austen Just read the letter Captain Wentworth wrote to Anne Elliot. No more to say.
  9. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne I read this for the first time in a foreign language, never realising that English book existed. I came across it years later in a library, and it was such a joyful surprise that I still remember beaming smile on my face.
  10. The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien No explanation required.
  11. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott A pure pleasure.
  12. The Upanishads – Eknath Easwaran Spiritual book based on the Upanishads. This is a good book for when one’s mind is troubled. Actually it’s good book for any time, but I find that when I am happy, I would much rather read fiction. :P
  13. Daughter of the Forest – Juliet Marillier Great showcase for how a strong first person POV can make a fantasy successful
  14. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek – Annie Dillard I had to read this for a class at Uni. Not the kind of thing I would usually pick, but once I started, I couldn’t put it down. Annie Dillard’s writing and especially her observation skill is amazing. Who would have thought praying mantis could be described in poetic prose?
  15. Kasturba: A Life – Arun Gandhi Everyone knows about Gandhi. But this is a story of the woman who perhaps had to sacrifice the most to support his causes – his wife, Kasturba, written by her grandson. The woman who stood behind him since she married him at the age of 14.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

15 Films in 15 Minutes

Stole this idea from Adam's blog. Rule: List 15 movies that have stuck in your mind in no more than 15 minutes.
  1. The Reader - It is amazing. Usually, movies don't measure up to the book, but this is an exception. Both Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes acting is fabulous, and especially Kate. Her strength in the subtlety in this one, a well deserved Oscar too. I love it!
  2. The English Patient - Oh what to say about this's like a treasure that renews every time I watch it. Never got around to buying it on DVD, but I watch it every time it's on TV. This is where I became a fan of Ralph Fiennes acting.
  3. Titanic - I remember sitting right at the front of the cinema, craning my neck when Titanic first came out. It was wonderful then, and all these years later, it's wonderful now.
  4. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy - another exception to movies-made-from-books-are-crap rule. I watch the whole extended edition in one go, over and over again.
  5. Shakespeare in Love - Another Fiennes brother. They are a handsome, talented family. This is pure pleasure.
  6. The Matrix - With those cool action scenes there is nothing to complain about.
  7. Bourne Trilogy - again cool action, but Matt Damon is not bad either.
  8. Little Women - delightful movie. March women rock! And this is where I met Christian Bale.
  9. Last Samurai - just love it.
  10. Atonement - usually I hate unhappy endings, but this is a beautiful, touching film.
  11. The Abyss - hey, underwater alien...what's not to like?
  12. Batman Begins - Just cool.
  13. Air Force One - no comments. just enjoy watching this one
  14. Runaway Bride - I don't really like the movie, but the speech at the end is so romantic.
  15. Anastasia - Disney animated musical. It's so sweet.

Monday, 17 August 2009

WIP 2 Finished

The first draft of my WIP 2 - Fantasy novel is finished at 66287 words. Much too short for a novel and shorter than 90K target. That's not an issue, because I know there are plenty of things that I need to flash out. I am a putterinner, more than takeouter. But I realised that instead of trying to flash out things now during the first draft, it was best just to get the story finished. I am not at all happy with the first draft. But I am happy that I have seen it through. The main reason is because for last couple of weeks, I have been re-reading some of the books on writing craft, and I am very conscious of all the things that are wrong with my first draft. I am also aware that while the concept is good (in my opinion), the first draft doesn't convey the depth of emotion that I know should be there. So happy that I finished it, but a little disheartened too. I am not at all going to give up on this novel, but with first drafts piling up that needs a lot of edit, the question becomes WHERE TO START? All the three WIPs I have finished are the ones I started while ago, before becoming aware of "craft" There is still one more WIP which is currently 44% done that I plan to finish regardless of how bad it seems. But everything after that hopefully should be a bit better due to all the things I am now more conscious of. How do you even begin to fix a draft that seems a total mess? Right now, for this particular WIP, I am more inclined to outline again after reading it (after cooling period), and then maybe just re-write the whole damn thing. I haven't decided yet. For now, I am going to think about finishing the balance on the next WIP and thinking about NaNo novel. Then I will worry about the messy ones. How do you deal with first drafts that seem like total mess?

Friday, 14 August 2009

Writing What You Know

I downloaded "396 Books & Other Resources" from Holly Lisle's website. I am most pleasantly surprised by its concept. Of course we have all heard: Write what you know. In many writing books, we have also learned, "Know more" so you can "Write What You Know" with more stuff. What Holly did is got lots of people to recommend fiction and non-fiction books, compiled the list, and that's what this download offers. She also lists some strategies on how you could learn more from the books. It's not rocket science, and I am sure we have all done it at some point with some books, but what's good about this is that there is a huge list of books recommended by other writers, and strategy guide Holly has devised is a handy little reference sheet which would come in especially useful when reading a non-fiction book for research. Check it out at - and just type the book's title in search area.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Writing Craft

I finished reading "Revisions & Self-Editing" by James Scott Bell today. Really enjoyed it. But more than that it really helped me. My two WIPs which have first draft finished were written long time ago. Since then I have learned a lot more about the craft. But so those two WIPs seem very daunting to edit, because there is so much I must change. So this book gave me techniques and little helpful hints, but above all, encouragement that no matter what mess the first draft may seen, if I am willing to take my time and work at it, it will be better. Of course taking my time doesn't seem at all easy for an impatient soul like me, but it's something I will just have to learn. Here is one interesting message I got: First draft = hot & fast Revisions = cool & slow Very good message in my opinion. Hopefully, by learning all these new stuff about craft, the next first draft I start will be less of a mess than previous ones.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Preparing for NaNo 2009

It's only August, I know. But unless your life revolves around NaNo (which mine doesn't), November will be here before you know it, and besides I like advance planning. Gives me something to look forward to. This is my first year doing NaNo, and I am determined to succeed. But my challenge to myself is harder than the NaNo challenge. 50K for the whole of November is doable, but that's not a whole novel. So I am hoping to finish the full first draft of a novel, which would be about 80-90K. I am really not sure whether it will be possible, becaues I still have to go to work all day. But that's why it's a challenge, and that's why I can only do something insane like that once a year. So how am I preparing -
  • I have officially signed up on NaNo website, and have started to look at forums. I am not posting much yet (hey, I read too many blogs already), but I am keeping an eye on it.
  • I read "NaNo for the New and the Insane" by Lazette Gifford yesterday. It's available for free download. I recommend it for a dose of inspiration.
  • I want to have a brand new story for NaNo, so I am playing around with several ideas, and see which one develops into a story. The plan is to have an outline done by October. Starting now gives me time to figure out which story I want to write, and more importantly, which story might be possible to write in a month.

How do you plan to prepare for NaNo, or do you just wing it?

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Reward for Writing - A New Story

This Saturday and Sunday, I set myself a target of writing 2100 words on WIP 2, and as a reward for finishing that, I could then spend whatever time was left playing around with a new story. As far as motivation go, you can't get any better. So this is what happened: I had a name. Just a name that I wrote down on a post-it while ago. Then this weekend, I just had this urge to find out more about that character. But of course, word count had to come first. So I finished the word count, and then late nights were for character playing. I haven't figured out much yet, but I know that he belongs in the future, so SF novel then. I know what he looks like (dead gorgeous), and his personality. I know a bit about his family. So definitely not much, but it's a start. It's the beginning of a new acquaintance, which will eventually blossom into a very good friendship.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

WIP 1 - A Mountain of Changes

First draft written about 5 years ago = word count about 200K 2009 = read through, decided to delete one of the four major characters. word count = 109K Just taking out one major character reduced the size of the book by half, because it not only took out scenes with that character, but several minor characters which were introduced as relation to that character Read through the story again Decided to change the relationship of 3 main characters from best-friends to sisters. Why? First, it will get rid of many supportive characters, because the three MCs will share relatives, as oppose to having each individual families Second, more scope for having scenes with them together. Best-friends who have no problems with each other don't make much of a story. That relationship made three parallel stories. With them as a sister, their stories will be more connected. I hope. So the edit has become more of a re-write, but I hope the story will be the stronger for it.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

yWriter 5 - Review

I have now transferred all four existing WIPS, except for the one I am currently writing, to yWriter 5, and I have to say it's definitely useful. I can understand how it could become more bothersome and time eater, but I do not use all its functions. First thing I like is an extremely easy way to divide chapters and scene, and to transfer them around as well as rename as necessary. It's especially useful once the first draft is finished, and you have to find all the problems, and often change the sequence or even the story as a result of editing. Scene by scene makes it easy to check that you haven't missed out anything. Of course it could be done in just MS Word, but having just a small chunk at a time makes it easier to manage. Usually, I have a list of characters in an excel spreadsheet. But I found that by spending a little time initially putting characters' names in yWriter, each scene can be assigned view-point character, as well as list of all characters within each scene, which makes it easy to check if some character randomly shows up in one scene and then disappears, or in multi view-point story if one one person gets a lot more scenes than another. For existing WIP which are either in half-finished first draft state or at plotting stage, project notes section is handy for keeping notes. Usually I kept them in word documents, and it's bit of a job trolling through them when they go for several pages, and then I end up creating several documents. But being able to keep various project notes labelled, again it's just more efficient and easier. For all new projects, I intend to use it from very beginning and eliminate character spreadsheets and misc. notes documents alltogether.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

This Week in Writing

This has been one of the good weeks for writing, so feel quite satisfied in revealing this week's progress WIP 1 - Read through the complete week. Transferred chapters and scenes in yWriter WIP 2 - 13758 words WIP 3 -1710 words August Word Count - 4262/30000 2009 Word Count - 15468/250000

Saturday, 1 August 2009

August Word Count Challenge

As mentioned in last post, instead of short story challenge, I will start word-count challenge from now on. But the word count is not limited to just one project. So if you are working on few novels, short stories, flash fiction or even non-fiction, then your final word count will be a combination of all your projects. So let's make this a challenge. NaNo is 50000 month, so to start gearing towards that, how about 30K this month? That's less than 1000 words a day. Come on, you can do it. So anyone who is interested in joining this new challenge, don't forget to leave your names and your targets.