Tag Archives: writing tips

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!!


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!


Writing Advice: How to create a relatable antagonist?

When writing fiction, we writers always want to create believable characters that we possibly can. But have you ever fallen into the trap of focusing so much on protagonist that you forget to flesh out your antagonist well? At best, the antagonist turns out to be total bad-ass, who is all dark and has no shred of goodness in him/her.

But we all know from our our time on Planet Earth that people are complicated. They are driven by different motivations. What you do might not seem right to me, but you might have a perfect explanation for why you do what you do. In my previous post, I talked about how being empathetic to all the characters in your story is crucial to prevent the story becoming a flat, biased narrative of a single person.

Today, I’d like to share with you a wonderful article that talks about why not making your antagonists pure evil is important. The article is written by K.M. Weiland, an author and a blogger. I love the writing questions that she shares on her Facebook page. Her questions make me ponder more about my Works in Progress and look for the nuances that can make stories and characters for complex. If you are looking for good writing advice, be sure to follow K.M. on her Facebook page.

P.S: As I celebrate one year of publishing Bound by Life, I shall be answering questions related to writing and publishing in June this year. I have learnt a thing or two about the writing/publishing industry in the past year and would love to be able to help you all out if I’m able to. So if you have any questions, feel free to email me at scribbles.arpita@gmail.com

How revisiting your old writings can help you grow as an author?

Dear Readers,

One June 20, I celebrate the first anniversary of publishing Bound by Life, my first ebook.

Normally, I do not revisit anything I have written unless I am editing. After I had published the book, I had kept it aside in a folder on my desktop, never bothering to read it again. When my roommate was reading it, she mentioned bits and pieces of the stories, telling me about which parts she liked. I felt a growing curiosity to revisit the stories. But I was certain I had done a below average work and did not want to upset myself with that kind of work. We writers are just so skilled at underestimating ourselves!

But a few days ago, quite late in the night, I felt a sudden urge to read one of the stories in Bound by Life. It was the title story.

Reading it for the first time in months, I realized how nuanced it was. The epistolary format attracted me always, and I felt it worked perfectly for this story. It struck me how the old man weaved the tale of his past with his present life. I especially liked how Sacred Heart, the home where the old man finally leaves for, becomes a character itself in the story – it is as if it has a personality of its own, like a haunted house.

That does not mean the story or the story-telling seemed perfect to me. I kept wondering if the voice of the old man was genuine enough. How did I want to portray him when I was writing the story? Did I want him to sound guilty because he had not cared for his son in a better way? Or did I want him to sound complaining, scathing his daughter-in-law? I do not remember the reasons exactly now. But one thing I know: through Bound by Life I had merely wanted to show how old men and women are mistreated by their children in the old age. My sympathies lay with the old man in the story and not the son or the daughter-in-law. Did I ever put myself in the shoes of the son/daughter-in-law and try to imagine what it might be to live with a grumpy old man like that?

That is what made me suspicious of the old man’s voice in the letter-story. If he were really apologetic, would he really write in such harsh manner, knowing that it might be his last communique with his son? Maybe, or may be not. For human nature is a mysterious thing, and it takes a lot of understanding to portray it accurately. But in some ways, at that point, I felt that the old man was merely a child in a big man’s clothes – not understanding, not sympathetic to anyone but himself. Even in his last days he was a selfish man.

Re-reading this story taught me a great lesson: a writer must think all his characters through – their inter dependencies, their emotional balances, before fleshing out a character. Because in the end you are striving to recreate reality, and the onus lies on you to be authentic and unbiased. In spite of how much pain motivates you to write a given story and feel sympathetic to the protagonist, all the supporting characters are as important. Once you have written them out, they cease to exist on paper. They live on in the readers, and the author must bear responsibility for that.

Have you ever revisited a character that you written a long time back and felt differently about his/her motivations? Share your thoughts with me in the Comments below.


A lot of you have been asking me questions on writing/magazines to send your writings to on my Facebook page and this blog. This June, as I revisit Bound by Life, I have decided to answer questions on Bound by Life, self-publishing, indie publishing and on writing in general. I would love to share whatever I have learned as far as writing is concerned with all of you. So this May, compile all your questions and email them to me at scribbles.arpita@gmail.com. Depending on the number of questions I get, I will be publishing a series of posts in June. Look forward to hearing from you!



20 Places to Submit Creative Writing in India

Knowing that my previous post, Five magazines to submit fiction (and/or non-fiction) in India has been of help to some  of my readers, I thought I’d post one more with an updated list. But my work was made easier as I found a ready-made list on Facebook few days back. I would like all you Indian writers out there to check it out!

20 Places to Submit Creative Writing in India

This list contains few of the magazines that I had listed in my earlier post as well. IN the past, I have heard from a lot of you who submitted their writings to the magazines I mentioned in the post and got themselves published. I would love to hear more of these stories from you. So, keep those fingers busy typing and sending your works to more and more magazines!



Empathy Maps in Creative Writing: How to create believable characters?

So, today I did something new at work. I created an Empathy Map for a potential client. What is an Empathy Map, you’re wondering? I’ll explain it to you in a moment. Please have a look at the cute diagram below:


Empathy Maps are often used in business to understand the motivations of a potential client. It is like prepping yourself before asking out the girl/guy you have been swooning over for a long time. You want to know who they are, what they like and how you can impress them. You are the one with the merchandise, they are the buyers. You want to wrap your goods in the shiniest wrapper, before presenting it to your customer.

So what you do is you create an empathy map. You want to get into the head of the person you’re trying to impress. How? Well, you draw up something like in the figure above and fill the white portions with the following pointers:

  1. What does the prospective client/boyfriend/girlfriend, let’s call him/her X, think or feel?
  2. What do they hear? What do you hear about X from others?
  3. What does X see? What might X see in you?
  4. What does X usually say or do? Do you have any idea what a typical day in X’s life look like?
  5. What are the pain points in X’s life?
  6. What is X trying to gain in life?

To do this exercise to its maximum benefit, you must put yourself in X’s shoes and see/think/feel as X does. And hence, this map is called an empathy map.

empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another
While doing this exercise at office today, a sudden idea came to my mind. What if I created an empathy map for each of the characters in my works-in-progress?
For us authors,understanding our characters is of utmost importance. Maybe, you hate your antagonist, but have you ever put yourself into the shoes of your antagonist and tried to understand why he is the way he is? We talk about POVs often while writing a book, but do we bother to understand the POVs of each character that we create?
Let’s think of every character as a prospective client, and try to feel/see the world as they see. Maybe then we can create that life-like character that we had been trying to create, and not merely caricatures?
 Have you ever used an Empathy Map before? If yes, how has it helped you? If not, do you think an Empathy Map might help you any manner? I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this!
Until next time, Sayounara!

An Interview with Alex Bruty – Mentor at WoMentoring Project

Those of you who have read my last post on the WoMentoring Project know who Alex Bruty is. For the uninitiated, Alex is a wonderful mentor at The WoMentoring Project where upcoming female authors are provided free mentoring by professional literary women. Also, she has been my mentor since August this year. To know more about this project, read on!

In Conversation with Alex Bruty
Interviewer: Arpita

Tell us about the WoMentoring Project.

I think the WoMentoring project is best described as a pay-it-forward initiative. It was born out of the realisation that there are many ways new writers can get help and feedback on their writing; for example via degree courses, professional editing/feedback services, but all these things cost a lot of money. What if someone is really talented and needs a little bit of help, but can’t afford to pay for it? More and more it seems that whether or not you climb the ladder in any sort of creative pursuit, is greatly dependent on your bank balance. So, WM being a free service is vitally important. People come to WM for a variety of reasons, the mentors range from highly-respected writers and agents, to new writers like me. The aim is to provide mentees with feedback on their writing.

Tell us about your own creative writing journey and how you came to be a part of the WoMentoring Project. How long have you been part of this project?

I’ve always written, but started to take it more serious around eight years ago. Before that I wouldn’t have dreamt of showing anyone anything that I’d written. That’s actually part of the reason that, around a year and a half ago, I volunteered to be a mentor with WM. I’m really just starting out myself, but I know what a leap of faith it can be to show someone something you’ve written for the first time. Cost is not the only prohibitive factor in someone not wanting to join something like a writing group or course. There are lots of talented people who are frightened to show anyone their writing- you could say it’s the literary equivalent of stage fright. If you just want to write for yourself, that’s great. But, if you eventually would like to get something published, then I’d say feedback is pretty essential. That’s what I feel I can offer a mentee, a safe environment to test things out, explore their writing and find out what they can improve on. I know that the short stories I’ve had published wouldn’t have been accepted had I not been through the long learning processes that I have, so to pass on some of that knowledge to someone else is a real pleasure.

What do you love most about this project?

I think the best thing for me is seeing not only the growth in literary voice of my mentees, but also their growth in confidence.

Mentoring can be educational to both the mentor and the mentee. Tell us about something that you learnt while mentoring for The WoMentoring Project.

Mentoring just refreshes everything you already know, but forces you not to let it lapse! So, in that sense, it reinforces good habits. Also, on a more personal level with you, Arpita, I am learning not only about Indian culture, but about the lack of opportunities to do creative writing courses that there are in India.

What is it that you look for in a good short story?

To be immediately transported into another world. Writing short stories requires many different things to novels- the obvious one being there is less time to absorb yourself into the setting and get to know the characters. For this reason, the writer has less time to ‘grab’ the reader, so it has to be immediately engaging and concise. For my own personal taste, I like to read about something that I’ve never considered before; or, to read a writing style that is truly distinctive.

Suggest three writers that an aspiring short-story writer must read.

I’d probably recommend they read something that is in the same vein as the genre/style they are writing in, and then, the exact opposite, something that they would never consider writing, just to compare and contrast different styles and consider all the options that are available.

My own personal three favourite short story collections are The First Person and    Other Stories by Ali Smith; No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July and The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales by Kirsty Logan.

Tell us about one creative writing exercise that has helped you the most as a writer.

The one that helps me the most is freewriting because it’s just raw and you don’t get a chance to self-edit. It’s basically writing down the first things that come into your head and letting your thoughts spiral, it often takes you somewhere you wouldn’t automatically go. It can even get a bit weird sometimes, in an out-of-body type of way, like it’s not really you who’s in charge of the pen/keyboard…or maybe that’s just me! Most of it will probably be unusable, but it’s very freeing and there might just be that one amazing line hidden in there somewhere.

If you were asked to give three tips to an aspiring author, as far as the structure and voice of writing is concerned, what would they be?

A tutor of mine would always say ‘find the uniqueness within your writing’. I think this is particularly applicable to the voice of a character, or a story. At first it could sound like obvious advice, but it requires you to be really honest and ask yourself if you are creating something that is unique rather than a pastiche of someone else you admire, or even something that you’ve written before.

I’m not a fan of formal structural advice, as I think it can halt creativity. I’d prefer a really messy, unstructured first draft that can be edited later, rather than trying to keep to a pre-destined structure that might stifle creativity. Having said that, structurally, I often find that new writers tend to get muddled with where exactly in a story they have said something. For example, certain knowledge might be assumed at the beginning of a story without them actually writing it on the page. In contrast, sometimes too much information is given at the wrong times and it can slow a story down. Try not to get too expositional and bogged down with details that aren’t needed. And remember that dialogue can often be a great way of picking up the pace of a piece if you feel things are getting a bit static.