Sunday, April 30, 2017

Zodiac Signs and Writers

Long ago during a summer break from school, I came across a small book which predicted that according to my birth star I would become someone who will make a career using words. 

When I told this to my family, they chorused I would become a lawyer. Wasn’t I an expert at winning arguments at home?

But God had different ideas for me. I became a blogger and a writer.

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I believe in all things esoteric. Zodiac signs declare that the movement of the celestial bodies is closely related to human characteristics and behavior. ‘As above, so below’. 

I am fascinated by them. I find they are almost accurate representations of persons as far as my experiences go.

I found this interesting list on the internet where writers are classified according to their Zodiac signs. 

I have many eminent authors like Sylvia Plath, Neil Gaiman, Fyodor Dostoevsky, John Keats, Chinua Achebe and Margarette Atwood for the company. What a blessed list!

Apart from such fun classifications, writers can use the Zodiac list to create character sketches.

While I was writing my debut novel, in my first draft, I had written the male lead as a September born. 

But as the story required his birthday to fall in the month of July when the female lead visits his place, I changed his birthday to July 3 in the second draft. 

Then while researching for adding details to my characters, I came across a Zodiac description of Cancer men (men born between June 21-July22).

 I was completely shocked as the characteristics I had described in my hero was typical of a Cancer man. That too considering that I had completed writing the first draft of the story assuming he was born on a different date.

 I used my research in my book also which was loved by many readers who wrote to me about it.

After this discovery, I check the compatibility of the star signs of my protagonists after I assign them their fictional date of births. 

If they are not compatible, they need to change their birthdays without delay. (*Wink) 

I believe the characters we write about in our stories do exist somewhere. The infinite source from where we writers get our ideas is, in fact, the supreme consciousness.

 Hence, we are tapping into something divine, which becomes solid and 3-dimensional through the words that we use to narrate our stories. 

Do you believe in Zodiac Signs?

 During this A-Z April Challenge, I am exploring the A-Z journey of writing a Novel with examples from Literature.

The Letter of the day is Z

Linking this post  to Blogging from A-Z

Have you read the Letters A, B, C, D, EFGH  I  J K  L M N  O P Q R  S T U V W X and Y?

Saturday, April 29, 2017

You Can Become a Published Author

According to statistics, 90% of bloggers aspire to become a published author. Out of that 97% do not finish writing what they begin. 

If you have written a novel, congratulate yourself, sit back and bask in the glory. You persisted in chasing your dream while the others were busy being busy. You have become a member of that rare 3% who succeeds in completing their novel.

April A-Z Challenge this time might change this statistic I guess. The percentage of people who are going to emerge as winners are surely going to be very high. People who persist for a whole month, writing every day for a month.

 Blogchatter is going to guide the A-Zers registered with them to publish their eBook using their A-Z posts, get it reviewed and market it as well.

A book is born through hours and hours of dedication. There is no short cut.

As Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

In this era, publishing has become easy with the advent of many self-publishing platforms like Amazon, CreateSpace, Kobo etc, authors are able to find a platform for their stories easily. Get a detailed insight into the various online platforms available here.

Many of the bloggers I know are publishing eBooks based on their A-Z challenge.

Anmol Rawat is planning to terrorize his readers with an A-Z anthology of Horror stories.

Tina Basu is about to make her readers drool with an eBook of desserts.

Paresh Godhwani is writing an A-Z memoir about Travel in the Local Train.

Dr. Amrita Basu is publishing an eBook about the A-Z of fruits.

Vinodini Iyer is publishing a collection of A-Z letters to her son filled with wisdom to face life in its many facets.

Deepa Malhotra Gandhi’s eBook is filled with A-Z parental wisdom.

Mayuri’s eBook is a collection of her favorite Indian sweets with an associated memory or incident from her life.

Roma Gupta Sinha is writing a heartwarming love story.

Upasna is writing the A-Z about minimalism.

Many of these bloggers are already published authors. This time they are taking the e-route via Blogchatter. 

If you wish to read these posts before they are taken down, rush to their blogs.

Though my initial intent was to convert my A-Z posts into an eBook, I realized these posts were bringing organic traffic to my blog as my theme was A-Z essentials of writing a Novel, which is a much-searched topic online. Hence these posts will remain on my blog.

As this month is proving, the distance to getting published can be just a month.

Are you planning to publish an eBook using your A-Z posts?

During this A-Z April Challenge, I am exploring the A-Z journey of writing a Novel with examples from Literature.

The Letter of the day is Y

Linking this post  to Blogging from A-Z

Have you read the Letters A, B, C, D, EFGH  I  J K  L M N  O P Q R  S T U V W X?

Friday, April 28, 2017

X-Ray Vision for Editing

Once we finish polishing the final draft of the novel, the next process is submitting it to an editor for in-depth editing.  This is the final and most important step in the creation of the novel.
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The editor we employ needs to understand what we want to convey through our book.
I have read books where the editing was pathetic.

Recently, I beta-read a book after its final draft and found it wonderful. When the book got published, it had lost all its magic. During the editing process, in order to conform to their word count limits, the editor had cut out many scenes which were crucial to the story and gave depth to the characters. I felt so bad for the writer.

Another book I beta-read and gave feedback as having many excesses came out like a shining gem after being edited by a brilliant editor.

This kind of X-ray vision is what we seek in an editor. The ability to step into the shoes of the writer and reader simultaneously to understand both the perspectives. The editor needs to use his/her X-ray vision to study the following details.
  1. What does the writer want to convey in the various scenes? 
  2. Will the reader understand what the writer wants to convey?
  3.  Is the scene necessary?
  4.  Is the writing concise and apt?
  5. Is the prose grammatically correct?
  6. Are there plot holes?
  7. Are all the threads closed at the end of the book?
  8. Are the characters three dimensional?
  9. Is the showing and telling balanced?
  10. Is the word count appropriate for the genre?

Editing is categorized into developmental editing, line editing, copyediting, and proofreading. Usually, in a publishing firm, different editors are in charge of each of these tasks.

Developmental editing looks at the big picture and analyses the entire story for inconsistencies in the story arc, character arc, plot holes etc.

Line editing is the editing at a paragraph level where each paragraph is given attention to and scrutinized.

Copyediting looks after the grammar, usage and consistency issues.

Proofreading addresses how things look on the page. Typos, repeated words etc are weeded out.

Kill your darlings is the favorite phrase of the editors. But the writer should have faith in his/her story and the final word should always be theirs. The darlings need not always die.

We should not allow any editor to mutilate our creations. If they enhance our writing with good editing, well and good. But if they strip down the essentials, it is time to put your foot down.

As the writer of the story, we often have the characters fully developed in our mind. We often know what drives them, their likes and dislikes.

 In order to show them in their true magnificence, we often add scenes which flesh them out on the pages. An editor might think they are not necessary.

 If it so happens, explain why you did it and why the scene is important. If the editor can convince you why it is not needed, then go with it.

Otherwise, stick to your opinion and convince them why it is necessary with valid arguments.

After all, it is your story and you should tell it your way.  

During this A-Z April Challenge, I am exploring the A-Z journey of writing a Novel with examples from Literature.

The Letter of the day is X

Linking this post  to Blogging from A-Z

Have you read the Letters A, B, C, D, EFGH  I  J K  L M N  O P Q R  S T U V and W?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

What If Questions

What if questions govern a writer’s life in a multitude of ways.

To begin with, it helps a writer create.

A story idea might originate from a simple ‘what if’ question.  A spectacular twist in the story comes out of a ‘what if’ idea.

The various dimensions of a character become evident as answers to different what if questions. The pace of the story, the character arc, the climax, the ending… every element becomes different from a similar story when the writer attempts to give life to a ‘what if’ idea.

A writer brings in variety and newness into the scene ideas, the dialogues, and the conflicts by asking many what if questions.

What if the villain turned out to be an extraterrestrial? Such a question is bound to change the genre of the story.

What if the characters begin to speak as if they were given different scripts? It can lead to hilarious situations or create conflicts.

What if one of the characters dies unexpectedly? This technique is widely used. ‘Kill your darlings’ is a tactic often adopted by authors when writing a book series. The Harry porter series sees the death of at least one prominent character in each book.

Yet, ‘What if’ questions also hinder creativity. It is one of the main questions that can bring in fear. 

Some of the common what if questions that trouble writers right from the beginning of their writing career are:
What if I am not meant to be a writer?
What if I am not able to complete this novel that I have begun?
What if this book turns out to be the worst book ever?
What if I face multiple rejections from agents and publishers?
What if the book never gets published?
What if the readers hate what I write?
What if the critics tear my book apart?
What if this book doesn’t match the popularity of the previous one?
What if I earn peanuts as a writer?

What if… such fears haunt the writer and the result is often ‘Writer’s Block’.

It is for us to decide whether we will use this simple phrase to create a question that will make us create or block our creativity.

Do you think what if questions are powerful?

During this A-Z April Challenge, I am exploring the A-Z journey of writing a Novel with examples from Literature.

The Letter of the day is W

Linking this post  to Blogging from A-Z

Have you read the Letters A, B, C, D, EFGH  I  J K  L M N  O P Q R  S T U and V?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

5 Surefire Ways to Improve Your Writing Vocabulary

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Being a non-native English speaker belonging to a small village in Kerala, my vocabulary when I started to write was not very vast. But I am a word hunter in love with words. Whenever I visit blogs or read books by native English speakers, I admire their writing skills and vocabulary prowess. 
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I yearn to acquire their writing skills. I know it is not an easy job. 

So, every day I spend time working on my vocabulary and writing skills.

I believe writing is a craft that can be improved only by working on it on a regular basis. 

Here is a list of activities I adopted to build my vocabulary.

1) Join a website dedicated to increasing Vocabulary Skills:

 My favorite website to study words is You can join the website for free using your Google or Facebook profile. They have word games and lists which help to learn new words. Each list has a set of activities where we can study the various words to understand their meaning and spelling. They give the origin, word meaning through examples and also the nearest synonym. My go to list there is Literature.  In this list, the words listed are selected chapters from many famous books.

2) Install a dictionary/thesaurus app on your phone or tablet

Whenever you encounter a new word, instead of guessing the meaning, check the word in your thesaurus app. Most apps save the list of words you search and hence you can revisit these words as and when you wish. The app I use is Merriam-Webster. It has a feature called word of the day which introduces new words to the user daily.

3) Read more every day:

Reading is the easiest way to encounter new words. The more you read, greater your word stock.

4) Write every day:

Note down the words you learn and then use them in your writing until you become familiar with their usage and meaning. Create a word journal and make it visually memorable.

5) Edit your writing

Another easy way to improve your vocabulary is to edit your writing. While you are at it,
  1. Replace repeated words with their nearest synonym. In the process, you will surely discover newer words to express yourself.
  2. Find a single word to replace multiple words. This helps to tighten your prose.

Example: to move aimlessly from place to place can be replaced by the word ramble.

How do you improve your vocabulary?

Do tell me in the comments section.

 During this A-Z April Challenge, I am exploring the A-Z journey of writing a Novel with examples from Literature.
The Letter of the day is V

Linking this post  to Blogging from A-Z

Have you read the Letters A, B, C, D, EFGH  I  J K  L M N  O P Q R  S T and U?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Unique Selling Proposition

Unique Selling Proposition or USP is very important when you come to the querying, publishing, and marketing phase of your book.

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By comparing similar published works to your work-in-progress, you can understand what is different about your book. What is the ‘aha’ factor that makes your book better? Why would a reader buy your book when the bookshelves are loaded with titles with similar storylines?

By emphasizing on the USP of your book, we can make the agents/editors understand what makes our work stand out.

To find out the USP of the book, you need to answer the following questions about your work.
  1. What is the genre of your book? Is the type of story you are writing common in the genre your book falls in?
  2. Who is your target reader? What is the age-group? Male or female? For example, romance works are mainly targeted at females in the age group of 25-45.
  3. What are the factors in your book that will appeal to your target reader?
  4. How is your book different compared to similar books?
  5. What is the take away for your reader?

1    Next, you have to write a one-sentence summary of your book. Are you wondering why?

Imagine you have to pitch your core book idea book to an agent/editor or marketer you accidently bump into in an elevator? You don’t have much time, remember?

If you can make this ‘Elevator Pitch’ very impressive and interesting, you might soon end up with a book contract. This is your book's USP.

This one sentence summary can come in handy when you write a query letter, design banners for promotions and also while writing the book blurb.

If you want to know more about writing a brilliant elevator pitch, read this article.

Examples of USP:

Harry Potter: Adventures of an ordinary boy who discovers he is actually a wizard destined to fight the evil dark wizard Voldemort to save the wizarding world.

An easy method to find the USP of your book.

  1. Find some keywords and phrases that will describe you work
  2. Write down a few sentences using these keywords and phrases
  3. Read them as if you are the target audience. Will you read such a book? Modify accordingly.

Now, it is your turn.

What is the USP of your book?

During this A-Z April Challenge, I am exploring the A-Z journey of writing a Novel with examples from Literature.
The Letter of the day is U

Linking this post  to Blogging from A-Z

Have you read the Letters A, B, C, D, EFGH  I  J K  L M N  O P Q R  S and T?

Linking this also with #MondayMummyMoments

Monday, April 24, 2017

20 Themes in Fiction Writing with Examples

The theme of a story/novel is its central idea, pulse or the message that the author wants to convey to the reader. Books can have multiple themes.

For example, the entire Harry Potter series explore the theme of good versus evil. We root for the good wizards like Harry, Dumbledore, Hermione, Ron, Mr. Weasley etc while they fight the dark wizards led by Lord Voldemort. It also has the theme of Love. Love is proclaimed as the most powerful magic which even the darkest magic can’t defeat. Harry is alive only because his mother’s love protects him from harm. She sacrificed her own life to protect him.

The following quote explains this theme of love:
“Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all those who live without love.”
~ excerpt from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
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What are some of the common themes explored in fiction writing?

Most books will have a central theme around which the entire story revolves. Let us check some examples.

  1. Ambition: In ‘Macbeth’ Shakespeare tells the tale of the unbridled ambition of Macbeth to become the King which eventually leads to his downfall.
  2. Betrayal: The central theme of ‘The Invisible Man’ by HG Wells is the betrayal by the people and ideals that the protagonist trusts.
  3. Coming of age: Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ is a coming of age novel along with being a book that deals with racism and atrocities suffered by minorities.  It sensitively portrays the life of a young boy who grows up during difficult times through shocking yet realistic events.
  4. Courage: ‘Hunger Games’ by Susan Collins
  5. Deception: ‘Much ado about Nothing’ by Shakespeare is based upon planned deceptions, both malevolent and benign.
  6. Discovery: ‘The Tempest’ by Shakespeare. After the characters get lost on the island, they discover many truths.
  7. Escape: In ‘The Glass Menagerie’ by Tennessee Williams the theme of escape is used to drive the play forward. The characters are driven by the hope that escape is possible.
  8. Death: ‘Hamlet’ by Shakespeare.
  9. Fear: The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  10. Friendship: Harry Poter Series has friendship as one of the strongest themes that drive the story forward.
  11. Good versus evil: Harry Potter Series
  12. Isolation: Robinson Crusoe
  13. Jealousy: Othello by Shakespeare
  14. Love conquers all: The Notebook by Nicholas Spark
  15. Lust and Love:  The Great Gatsby by F. Scot Fitzgerald
  16. Power: The Godfather by Mario Puzo
  17. Prejudice: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  18. Prodigal Son/Daughter: Prodigal Daughter by Jeffrey Archer
  19. Spirituality: Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
  20. Survival: The Hunger Games

What is your favorite theme in fiction?

During this A-Z April Challenge, I am exploring the A-Z journey of writing a Novel with examples from Literature.
The Letter of the day is T

Linking this post  to Blogging from A-Z

Have you read the Letters A, B, C, D, EFGH  I  J K  L M N  O P Q R and S?

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