Category Archives: Journey of a Beginning Author

A happy memory

This morning mom started feeling weak, perhaps the result of her ongoing battle with Covid. She’s saying it’s the first time in the last 14 days that she has felt this way. Naturally, the emotional state at home is brimming with worry and helplessness.

In a way, we have had it all. We have been dealing with Covid for over 1.5 months now, and it has strained all of us. But do we sit here and keep lamenting? Does not make sense.

So I sat down to focus on a positive memory. The tough part is, I’m having to think a while to come up with something worthwhile.

Here we go:

A long time ago, perhaps when I was in sixth standard, I went to a poetry writing competition. I don’t remember the theme on which we had to write, but I distinctly remember having included the words “because old is gold.” Or maybe I am imagining it. I don’t know. The only thing that I can be very clear on is the fact that I wrote a long poem.

The thing is, I wrote the poem and came back, never bothering to enquire what the results came out to be.

Many days later, one of my schoolteachers who frequented such competitions asked me, “Arpita, did you participate in this event? Because it feels to me like they announced your name as the winner.”

It was surprising to hear him say that. One, because I did not expect this. Second, because I thought if I was indeed a winner, maybe the organizers would find a better way to get in touch with me. I do remember feeling a bit let down, if I had indeed won, at not being able to pick up the prize in front of a cheering crowd.

So I went with a neighbor to this nondescript building where the event had taken place (or maybe, it did have distinct and interesting features, but my memory fails me). Surprising as it was, my teacher was indeed right. They gave me a certificate and a trophy of a respectable size. I had won the first prize!

I remember coming home and feeling so excited about it, at the sheer unexpectedness of things. I don’t remember how my father felt about this, but my mother was definitely happy.

Afterward, this story was repeated many times over, among neighbors, friends and family, until other things pushed it down the stack of memory lane.

If you wish, do write the first happy memory that comes to your mind as you read this. Looking forward to starting a chain of positive memories as we trudge along this pandemic.

Creative Block Minor

I’m re-reading this book called “On Writing” by Stephen King. I bought it way back in 2016 when I was serious about being a writer. While I was writing the first draft of the novel I am currently working on, I thought I’d remind myself of the basics of writing, as suggested by Mr. King.

I am actually quite proud of the way the book was going so far. My goal for April was to finish the first draft and I was able to do that. The goal for May was to finish the 2nd draft and that’s where the big problem is.

Of course, I am going through this period of mourning. It’s an unprecedented loss in the family and it will take a long time to get past it. That said, life goes on in its own flow. What I am trying to do right now is get on with that flow, tell life let me move on and really focus on things that would leave a lasting impact.

However, now that I am reading the book, having gone through the emotional roller-coaster that I did, somehow everything feels bland. The challenges of my characters, the situations they are in, feel so simple, so easy to overcome. Yet, some months back, that was what my life was all about.

Somehow, I am jealous of the characters’ lives, of the simplicity in their day to day. On the other hand, however, now that I have seen a very different aspect of life, I want the characters to be much more life-like. Like they are living, breathing individuals.

One thing is for sure, it will take me few months more to finally hit that publish button on this book. Until then, I’ll probably write for you all here.

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.

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!

Day 28: Camp NaNo Winner

It’s 28th day of April and I am pleased to announce that I met my goal of 50K words today. I am a winner! Drumrolls!!

Camp-2017-Winner-Facebook-Cover

My book, however, is far from complete. I still have 30K odd words to write before I can call it a finished first draft, but this is the first time I have been able to complete at least 60% of my novelling goal.

Congratulations to all fellow Campers who took part in Camp NaNo this April. Whether or not you met you goal, I am sure you spend time thinking about your writing project. Maybe you didn’t end up writing anything/writing only a little in the end, but the fact that you signed up for Camp is proof that you’re one step closer to your writing goals. Keep the spirit of the Camp alive in your heart and keep writing! To all the others who met their goals, when is the book launch party?

Here are a couple of things that helped me reach my goal:

  • An week of outlining – I was never someone who plotted before starting a project. I tried writing novels multiple times, but in the middle of a project, I wouldn’t know what to write anymore. Having an outline helped greatly. I spend the last week of March writing down the outline in a small pad. I didn’t follow it word by word, though – but in general, the theme remained same
  • A strong start – The fact that April 1 and 2 were weekends helped. I am not someone who writes everyday, so the two day warm up gave me a head start. I wrote around 5K on the first day itself. Once the habit formed, I found it easy to keep writing everyday
  • Writing almost everyday – I wrote for 25 out of 28 days in April. That is a big deal for someone who doesn’t write daily. I used to write in office every day after lunch – treating it as important as my other activities. I think once you get into the mode of writing daily, it is easy to keep up with the habit
  • Great cabin partners – As I have mentioned before, I was part of an amazing cabin this month. There were some really motivated people in there who kept going on towards their goal at an amazing pace. That boosted my writing like nothing else

That’s it for now. I guess I will go watch an episode of The Mentalist before I hit the bed. If you have some tips/learnings from your Camping experience, feel free to share in Comments below.

Until later!

 

Day 22: Camp NaNo (April)

I was looking at my monthly mobile pack usage earlier today. I have this Vodafone plan which gives me 500 free call minutes and 1 GB worth of internet. I never end up using the internet, but the call minutes get used up fast. You’d think in the era of Reliance Jio why still hold on to ancient phone packs? Well, my phone is approx. 2.5 years old and does not have 4G. I know it’s slowing and is probably due for a change, but right now I have other financial priorities to sort out.

Anyways, the mobile usage report told me there were two days left before the plan would auto-renew. My bill renews on the 25th of every month and for a moment, I was shocked. I went on to check the date on my phone and there it was: April 22. Wow! It feels like just yesterday that I went to pay rent to my owner. And another paycheck will be in by this time next week and again I will start paying the recurring bills. Whew! Time is flying FAST. Sometimes, it indeed  feels like I am living from one rent payment to another.

Which brings me to my current NaNo Camp project. I am into the last 10K of my 50K goal. Whoo-hoo! I still have this weekend and the next to finish off, but I am hopeful that I might end up earlier.

As I mentioned in the last post, my current book is to be divided into two parts: 1) A mother’s POV 2) A daughter’s POV.

I hit a semi-‘The End’ moment in the project when I finished the mother’s POV on Friday. I was outlining the daughter’s POV this morning – practically going over the notes I had made in the last week of March and seeing if I could still stick to the same outline. So far, I think it is going to be fine if I follow it. I was writing until 12 PM and finished up two chapters of the daughter’s POV. Currently, my word count stands at 40.7K. Hopefully, I can get it to 42K by the end of the day.

I can’t believe it’s been 3 weeks already into April. I have been really disciplined this time and have written 20 out of 22 days, at an average of 1800 words. The only thing which is bothering me a little is that I might lose some interest after April 30.

I was part of a wonderful Camp time this summer – we had some great discussions where a lot of my questions about novelling was answered. By now, most of my cabin mates have completed their goals and are also editing. I don’t think I could have made this far without my wonderful cabin-mates. I hope I can extend the energy until the project actually completes – for the first draft I foresee 80K words, an additional 30K over my NaNo goal. Need to keep myself motivated.

How about you? How do you keep yourself motivated at what you do? Leave me some tips in the Comments.

Day 16: Camp NaNo (April)

Lots happened since the last post, not just in terms of writing, but my personal life as well.

Today was Day 16 of Camp NaNo. Sometime this week, I upped my NaNo goal from 25K to 50K. Unlike NaNo in Nov ’15, I find myself much more disciplined this year. I have been writing almost daily and have mostly been ahead of my daily goal. I try to get a lot of the writing done on the weekends – because the weekdays are too unpredictable.

Thankfully, I have managed to write for about 30 minutes after lunch during work days as well. I think of it like an extended lunch break. At any rate, I do not have much of a life outside of work, so the writing bit keeps me sane.

I am currently at 32K words, pretty close to my target of 50K (yes, having written 32K, 18K feels like a cakewalk). So far, I am proud of what I have achieved in terms of my current project. I have never been this far into any novel. I am almost halfway through the story of Sukriti – a housewife whose husband is alcoholic and whose young daughter blames her for everything that is wrong in the family. The second part of the book will be from the daughter’s POV. For some reason, I feel writing the daughter’s POV is going to be more challenging for me that the mother’s. Somehow, inside my head, I can feel Sukriti, understand her motives. I do not know yet if I understand her daughter, Maya, so well.

I have to outline her side of the story soon, because I see myself reaching the finish line with the mother’s POV soon. And unless I have a plan for the daughter’s POV, I am going to be stuck and the word count will suffer.

On the personal front, I have been going through some tough times. Had to take a hard decision in terms of relationships this week. So far, I stand by my decision and I hope that I will see myself through it.  I need some big changes in my life right now.

Thankfully, I spoke to a lot of people this weekend, which helped me keep my mind off the immediate worries. I spoke to a lot of people who I had not spoken in a long, long time. So that way, good things are happening.

When I was younger, I was okay with loneliness. I even cherished the silence around me. I cherish it now as well. But as I move into my twenties, I realize that I am craving relationships and support more. I feel the need to connect to people, speak to them and be in touch.

Hopefully, I will be at a better place by the end of this year – have some clarity in terms of what I want to do with my life.

What’s up at your end? Did you visit some new place this weekend? Tried out some new dish? Share with me bits and pieces of your life in the Comments below. Like I said, it feels great to be connected.

Day 1: Camp NaNo (April)

downloadHello folks! I have been missing from the blog-space for a while now. Hope you all are good!

Today is the first day of the April Camp NaNoWriMo. This time, I have set myself to write a 30K word novelette, along with a bunch of other writers in our cabin in the Camp, including fellow blogger, Joynell. I had last participated in Camp NaNo in July, 2016 which had given a huge impetus to complete my second book, How I tamed the dragon named fear.

As a writer, I am constantly challenging myself to do something different with every book that I set to write. My first book, Bound by Life, was a book of short stories. My second was a self-help non-fiction on Fear. But the book that I always wanted to write was a novel, and hopefully this attempt at Camp NaNo will take me closer to that goal.

I have tried my hands at novel-writing in the past as well, unsuccessfully. I found it very difficult to stay in a story for a long time, especially because I write in the moment and do not really plan beforehand. This time, I changed my tactic. Through the last week, I have been outlining the novelette in the small time that I get after work everyday. I have a good head-start that way. All I have to do now is stick to the plan, take one chapter at a time and nail it down.

As it happens, it is already midday in India and I am done with 4.3K words. I have the rest of the day to myself. Hopefully, I will be able to utilize the time and finish a large share of the word count today itself.

With the kind of work hours that I have currently, I might not be able to write much during the week. Hence, a good word count in the weekends will help me still reach the goal. Although, I feel the most important part to NaNo is to keep writing everything,no matter how little it is.

Are you Camping this April? If yes, what is your project about? Drop me a note in Camp messages. I am more than happy to meet new authors this way.

How my beta readers made my book better?

As writers, we are often so close to our writings that we fail to see the flaws that our writings have. While I was writing my recently published second book, I took care that the book did not suffer from such shortsightedness. In December 2016, with much self-doubt and suspicion I sent out a very rough draft of the book to a couple of friends and bloggers.

The feedback I received was immensely helpful towards building the finished product that is now live on Amazon.

The book, How I tamed the dragon named fear, is self-help book that draws heavily from my personal experience. In the book, I have talked about things that make me afraid and how I have learned to deal with them over the years.

The major chunk of feedback that I received from my beta readers went somewhat like this:

  1. The book is immensely personal, hence the range of fears is limited, should try and broaden the horizon
  2. The chapters were initially designed to be stand-alone capsules – Anand from Anand’s Parodies suggested I try connecting each chapter so they have a continuous flow
  3. Adding visuals

I focused on points 1 and 2 and tried to re-create the book from a new angle. Speaking and emailing with my beta readers gave me the much needed clarity. Besides, being the nice folks that my betas were, they supported me strongly even for that really messy rough draft. That act of kindness hugely motivated me to continue work to the finish line and helped me in not doubting myself while I on it.

So, thank you Anand, Rachana and Neeladrita (my lovely school friend who’s currently working towards a Ph.D. in Mohali). Thank you so much for the time you guys took out and gave to this book. You have truly made the book a better one.

Have you ever had your work-in-progress read by beta readers? Did it change the course of your book? Share your experience with me in the Comments section.

P.S: If you have not downloaded How I tamed the dragon named fear yet, do it ASAP. It’s only a few more hours that it will stay FREE! Buy it here.

download-for-free-on-amazon-today