Author Archives: Arpita

About Arpita

Arpita is currently working in Unilever, Bangalore as a data analytics product owner. While being passionate about how data shapes modern lives, she is enthusiastic about the creative side of life. Reading, writing, travelling, and more recently, making videos excite her. Arpita loves great conversation, so feel free to drop a note on her blog anytime!

The joy of writing a book

As I am currently working on my third book, my first novel, I feel blessed every day that I do have the time and the right frame of mind to sit down and add more words to the book. The first draft stood at 42K, and now that I am going through the second draft, it’s climbed up to 45K.

I remember when I was in college, publishing my first book, I was rushing through the process. I wanted to get the book out there as soon as possible. Now that I have a few years under my belt and more patience, I am savouring each and every part of this process.

Having worked in the corporate and also having grown up in a family that runs a business, I also enjoy the business aspect of publishing a book. I’m already speaking to YouTubers for promotions, illustrators for the book covers etc. My budget is little to nothing for this book, but I’m still going through this process to see if I can find any option that fits my budget and goal. Otherwise, I can always trust myself to pick up the relevant skills to produce the complete product to the best of my ability.

I can’t wait for this book to be sent to beta readers for their initial review!

If you’ve ever published a book, what is it that you like the best in the process?

The process of writing and publishing a book – Part 1

Even though my first book was written six years back and the second one four years back, I remember the first book writing experience more clearly than I do the other.

I was just a college kid when I was writing that first one. But even at the time, I was mature enough to do thorough research about self-publishing processes, go through a beta-reading and feedback collection process, build this blog. Today, as I am standing at the precipice of publishing my third book, that experience has informed me so much.

I have always struggled to stay with one story for a long time. So to help with that discipline, I ensured that this time I had the plot outline written down before even I wrote one chapter of the book. Once I was happy with that, I started putting words to the book. I think I stopped when I was about 20K words, definitely bored with how things were going, not just in the book but perhaps my personal life as well.

I picked up the book again in April this year, with a target to finish the first draft by 30th April. I missed the deadline by just a day (still proud) and at 42K words (as against a target of 50K).

The next thing that I did was to research the best way to start penning down the second draft. In that process, I realised I need to have another outline of my first draft, given that the initial plot points had changed. This time, my outline looks something like this for each chapter:

Context | What does the main character want? | What is in her way of getting what she wants?

This activity took me couple of days, given that I am also grappling with the pandemic at home. Once that has been done, I have started writing the second draft, taking cues from the plot outline as to what might be improved in terms of the plot, character development etc.

My goal is to finish this draft by the end of May, or latest the first week of June. This phase will involve more research. Given that I’m writing a novel about IT professionals, one of them aspiring to write GMAT exams, I need to make sure I understand enough about such job roles/exam preparation process to build a convincing narrative. I have already started speaking to people who have work experience in these areas to help me out with this. Of course, it helps that I myself know the corporate world okay enough to write convincingly about it.

Once this phase is done, I feel the book should already be in a good shape to go out to beta readers. The feedback that I’d be expecting from my beta readers is mainly on the character development and the plot, whether the story reads smooth or not.

I installed Grammarly yesterday to help me with the basic grammar issues. It’s still the free version as I am comfortable with my command in English and won’t need any help with better sentence construction/style.

Hang on for Part 2 of this process, in which I will talk about the more business-aspect of the book creation process, which involves the book blurb, the cover page, promotion etc.

Are you a fellow author who has experience in self-publishing? Would you be interested to share your journey with me and the readers of this blog? Do reach out to me via the Comments and let’s connect.

Have you finished reading Bound by Life?

Hope you’re all well in these trying times. Personally, I am going through a tough time, given someone very close to me is hospitalized. A good night’s sleep has now become a privilege. It was only last night, after a good part of the week, I finally caught an okay amount of sleep.

I’m trying my best to move on from this crisis and keep my life as normal as I can. I am trying to spend time doing the things that give me joy. If you’re currently in this situation, know that even if you feel alone, there are millions who are undergoing the same excruciating emotional wave right now. Know that I’m praying for everyone’s recovery because in this war, we can each be safe when everyone of us is safe.

Anyways, looking beyond all the negativity, I wanted to check in on something with you guys. If you’ve been on this blog last month, you might know that I was running a free book promotion of my first book of stories, Bound by Life. If you happened to get the book during the promotion, then do let me know if you’re enjoying reading the book so far. If you could, do leave me a review on Amazon. It would help me take your feedback and build onto that in my new book, a WIP at the moment.

Thank you in advance!

40K words and a 100 pages!

If you’re reading this today, I want you to know that all of us are going through similar fights every day now, if not the same. I know our circumstances are not the same, but the pain and fear and worry that is gripping at us since the beginning of the pandemic, is the same.

And so, it’s so important to find respite doing things that we love doing. I feel fortunate that even though people very close to me are fighting the disease, I know that I am still fortunate to lose myself in my creative pursuits.

I have been writing for as long as my memory serves. Earlier this month, I picked up the book I had started writing last year and left mid-ways, finally making a plan to get it to a position that it can be released.

Per this plan, the first milestone is to complete the first draft of the book by 30th April. I’m thrilled to say I am very close to this, at 40K words and just about a 100 pages. I still have about 2-3 chapters to finish, which I might really end up getting done by tomorrow. I’m also aware that at this stage, things might change at personal level very quickly. So until I can, I will find joy in this tiny achievement.

Stay safe!

Has nonfiction overpowered fiction?

We often tend base our ideologies on the the thoughts and the opinions of people we see around us. Or by the social media content that we consume. When our world was less connected, there were still large differences in the way we did things. Now, more than ever, we are increasingly becoming alike.

Case in point: When I was a young girl growing up in India, I read a lot of story books. At the time, access to good books was limited, given that there were not enough, accessible public libraries in my hometown.

I read the same book over and over again, hidden behind the open pages of my schoolbooks, just because I loved those stories so much. I have read them so often that many years later, I remember exactly what had happened in the stories.

A decade later, the reading habits among the people around me have drastically shifted. I personally have started reading a lot of nonfiction books on social science and personal finance. At least in my circle this seems to be the trend.

People now often consider fiction as an indulgence, if not a waste of time. Everyone wants to be learning something these days: consuming hard cold facts or hard cold skills. Very few seem to be interested in being lost in a good story, in an imaginary world, roaming in the worlds weaved cleverly by skilled authors. At least that’s how I see it.

What do you guys think?

Free book in a free market!

It’s funny how yesterday I was talking about the free market, and today I am here to talk about my “free” book.

Many years back when I was in my final year of college – wow, feels strange to think that I can refer to my college years as being long time back – I was super sure that all I wanted to be was a writer. There were dreams of writing one book per year. Life would be hard in the beginning because finding publishers is hard plus the royalties aren’t that great. But I thought, if I kept at it, I’d get to a stage where I could comfortably live off my book income.

Needless to say, that hasn’t happened. However, the fact that I keep toying with the idea of writing a book every other year tells me that a dormant seed is buried deep inside the soil of my heart. As soon as the conditions are right, it might just sprout into a huge banyan tree full of wisdom. Something tangible that other people can see and touch and grasp.

Anyways, I have started working towards that goal – the idea is to finish the first draft of a novel (at the moment called “Paper Boats” for no real reason) by the end of April. May will be full of edits and perhaps one version of beta read.

Anyhow, let me not daydream. When I was planning out the timetable for the next book, I had a look at how my last two books are doing on Amazon. There’s not much traction in the last two years (I haven’t myself tried to do anything to push the sales). However, I thought as I start my journey of the new book, it might make sense to let your guys become familiar with my writings. Hence, I’m running a free book promotion of my short story collection, Bound by Life, on Amazon. It’ll be available free of cost between 17th-21st April, so it’d make me super happy if you give it a read. And of course, if you like it, do ask your reader friends to download it as well! 🙂

Bound by Life India Link

Bound by Life US Link

How free is the free market?

Do you sometimes feel that we humans complicated our world too much for our own good?

As an early career professional, I have been thinking about different types of investments for my personal finance. In the times that we are in, Cryptocurrency does come into one’s purview, especially when you have so many social media influencers pitching it and you yourself understand very little of the complex economics.

Anyhow, today’s rant is based off of a series of YouTube videos I’ve been watching on Cryptocurrency to understand why is Bitcoin so expensive.

To the extent that I have understood, the so called “FREE MARKET” comes to play. It’s basic supply and demand, they say. If someone is willing to pay 10 million dollars for something they deem of that value, who’s to say it isn’t? If there’s someone willing to pay, do we even need a regulator to exist?

I’ll give an example closer home. I’ve lived in Bangalore for years to know how expensive security deposit for renting a flat can be. It’s a norm which has stood its time, at least until Covid, because there’s always demand for renting in Bangalore and there are people who can pay that amount. So the owners can charge what they want. However, not everyone can pay.

For cryptocurrency, you could say it’s okay – no one is forcing you to buy one, so why do you care if it’s expensive? Very true. But when it comes to renting, it does affect me. So it does so for many other people.

The comparison here, between renting and cryptocurrencies, hold valid because at the end of the day, it is the free market that’s allowing this to be. For prices to be jacked up because few players can afford to buy and sell and rest everyone can be forced out of that little, private game.

And I know this isn’t new. For the longest time, this is how human society has operated. It makes you question, how do things get their value? How valuable is water, air to you? How valuable is an iPhone? Especially for crypto, if there’s no underlying value (and when I say that, I mean not many governments today has accepted it as currency – so how is it that it’s getting its value?), then how can it be so expensive today?

Anyhow, it is perhaps on me to do a lot more reading to figure that out myself. But the larger question is, can there be a different world where prices can be controlled for the benefit of the majority and not selected few? If so, would the forces in power today allow that? As humanity, what should our goal be? To thrive as powerful families in a few hundreds or let the majority thrive? Maybe there’s merit to capitalism – maybe, billions of humans are indeed a strain on Earth’s resources, so there needs to be elimination of few in natural, social, economic or political ways. But as I say that, I also know that we can’t know of sure what is right and what is wrong. What is a strain and what isn’t. At any point of time, we are doing the best that we can, but our worldviews are always narrow.

Summer Colours

Have you ever been in a situation where you knew there are things you want/need to do, but didn’t end up doing because life happened?

As a person, there are several things which recharge me creatively: writing, reading, gardening, sketching, making videos and so on. However, when the going gets tough work-wise, I end up focusing singlemindedly on that and forget that there are other things to life than just that.

This March my work calendar was crazy. Naturally, I did very less to energize myself. The interesting part is, amid all that business, I was also organizing a sustainability related event at work. It meant that I had to work few hours extra every day, but sustainability is a cause that I am passionate about, hence I wanted to do all I could to help. The event was on World Forest Day and Water Day. I had to make a presentation on a beginner’s journey in gardening, showcasing all the plant collection that I have. I made a colorful presentation that captured all the hues of my garden. I have to admit though, at the time, I did question how much value add that presentation would be to the audience. Also, until the event, I was considering making the presentation a chore rather than something to enjoy.

But having made the presentation and brightening my mood with the colors, I was left with a different feeling. I realized that I had lost touch with my garden (my mother was doing all the watering/pruning herself) and I needed to get back on track. To that effect, I have again become active in my garden and am gradually adding summer colors to it. You’re welcome to have a look at my journey on my Instagram id: @arpitamanick

Until next time!

Intermingling cultures and hybrid identities

Happy Ugadi and Gudi Padwa to all those who celebrate the festivals in your part of India. Since my base work location is in Bangalore, I am enjoying a nice Tuesday vacation today on account of Ugadi.

The Bengali equivalent of Ugadi is on the 15th of April, when my family would do their usual celebrations, but I’d be busy with work. This lockdown has allowed me to stay with my parents for the time being, but that said, sometimes the workload is such that it wouldn’t matter where I am – given that I have such little time to spend with my family outside of work during the workweek.

Well, maybe it’s not as bad most days as the last statement might make you think – I do like the job and feel fulfilled by it. But there are days when I am in endless meetings when grabbing glass of water feels unaffordable.

I’m perhaps digressing. The point that I wanted to make is given that we are migrating so often from our homes, we cannot but embrace the cultures of the places we go to, if not in spirit then in mere execution. For example, I might not care about the underlying spirit of Ugadi as a festival; but I sure might go out today and enjoy some nice food were I in Bangalore. Two days later though, I’d be back in my meetings, forgetting that it’s Poila Boisakh on which my family would be welcoming the Bengali New Year.

Such hybrid identities have become the norm. For the most part, it becomes a part of us so subtly that you won’t probably complain. Well, you might when you just left home and the remains of your younger self craves for the same holidays that you forever enjoyed. But gradually, you get used to it. You learn to blend in, you learn to not complain. You mellow down.

Yet, on a summer afternoon, when you get to the rooftop and take stock of your life, you might realize just how unsettling the change is. You are a version of you which you weren’t a decade back. At times, you might not even recognize yourself. Even as you know that your hybrid identity is who you are now, and that’s all that you will have.

Political consciousness of the common (wo)man

I think who we end up becoming as individuals, especially, the basic values that we imbibe in ourselves: kindness, optimism, pessimism, insecurity, political awareness etc. are very much informed by the early conditioning in our homes.

In West Bengal, maybe, my family stands out as an anomaly, because we never had detailed political debates in the house. Even if there were any such discussions between the parents and grandparents many years ago, it wasn’t discussed in front of us. Maybe this was so because my father was away at the shop for over 14 hours a day and my mother was too busy taking care of the house and the kids. None of my parents ever actively supported any party, never campaigned for any local leader of a given party or raised funds for party.

The mandate I had growing up was hide myself in my books and even if the house was on fire your focus should not be diverted. I dare say that I have done this very well, you’d need to work really hard to get my attention when I am busy with something.

But as you get out of your home, meet new people and new cultures, you wonder what is it that you should be busy with. Should you be part of the ongoing political debate that you see overflowing all around you? Or should you put your head down and just focus on your work (similar to what you did as a kid with your books)?

For the longest time, I did the latter. In my defense, I do find the current political environment in India distasteful, to put it mildly. I see a lack of leaders who one can be inspired by. I see a lack of representation of the causes that I personally deem important. To give an example, I see very little representation of sustainability in political speeches. While on the other hand, the century-old debates on religious fault lines are still at centerstage, even though for a good chunk of the population, religion has very little impact on the day to day life. I suppose though my views are urbane and I do not see how my religion defines me. Perhaps in a more rural setting, religion does define your identity. Even so, should that be the cause the common people should be bothered about when the world around them has changed so much?

The tendency to give religious or caste-based color to topics which are far removed from being any of those things has become so prominent.

When you live in such a day and age, not to have a political view becomes difficult. Because now, that student has become a corporate professional who pays taxes. She does feel the pinch when the price of her hard work goes straight into income tax but does not necessarily translate to the kind of reforms she wants to see in the society.

I’m fortunate to have a few left-oriented friends who often provide a counterfoil to my centrist, liberal views. It makes you wonder what would a different world view look be. It makes you think of the larger picture into the future and form your own political philosophies. To that end, I have purchased The Communist Manifesto. Perhaps, there will be another post in which I share my thoughts on the book, but for today, all I can say is: “Interesting.”