Thursday, July 29, 2021

Without You: 6 lessons I learned from my debut book

Last month marked the 6th year anniversary of my debut novel 'Without You'. The paperback of the book was released on June 3, 2015.

'Without You' marked the birth of a novelist. It also assured me that I could create a story that could grab the attention of readers. But it gave me many life lessons as well.

Let me share some of the lessons I learned through my debut book. Hope you find these lessons informative as well.

1) You cannot please every reader

Even though the majority of the readers have loved the book, there were odd voices here and there who absolutely hated the book. These voices and opinions emerge every now and then. Initially, it hurt to see my book baby torn to pieces by ruthless reviewers. Now I accept the fact that not every reader is going to love my book. It is all about perceptions. Ignore haters. Take feedback from genuine readers and cherish them.

2) Self-publishing can make you financially independent

It was with 'Without You' that I stepped into the world of self-publishing. When I began there were hardly any Indian writers self-publishing. My first month's royalty from the book was 4944.39 rupees. This was back in September 2015. It was my first paycheck from Amazon and literally the first royalty I earned. From then on, my earnings have gradually increased with the addition of every new book. I earn a comfortable passive income now through my books strictly through self-publishing. 

3) You don't need to be an expert at the craft to start writing. You can learn on the job.

When I began writing 'Without You' , all I had was the experience of writing a few short stories. But I knew I had a story to tell. I had been an avid reader since childhood and the words that got imprinted in my mind poured out in the form of stories.
 I belong to a tiny town in Kerala. Being a small-town girl, I had many limitations. English is not my native tongue though it was my primary language, I made errors. 
As I was used to reading classics mainly, my sentences used to come out as lengthy and complex. But I was determined to work on it. I sent my story to a professional beta-reader before approaching a publisher. The response from the beta-reader was positive and I sent it to a publisher who accepted it.

4) An editor can make or break the book

The first edition of my book had a few grammar errors and run-on sentences even after multiple rounds of edits by multiple people. I decided to get another round of edits done. I asked a few professional editors to edit a sample chapter and eventually selected the editor who messed up the least with my voice or story. Some editors tend to give the story their voice, instead of retaining the writer's style or voice. Thankfully, my editor was good and she has stayed with me to date.

5) You don't need to spend thousands/lakhs of rupees to market your book if you have build your brand online

I had been a blogger before I became an author. I had built a social media presence as well by the time I released my book. This helped me greatly. I see newbie authors nowadays investing heavily into marketing. Most use the wrong methods. Bulk purchases, bulk reviews, fake reviews, fake articles and fake awards. If you go down that path, whatever money you earn through your writing will go down the drain. The downside is you will have to opt for these methods every time you release a book. Do marketing wisely. Don't fall into the lure of fame and forget why you started writing in the first place. Earn genuine readers and build a readership base.
The reviews and ratings I received for 'Without You' both on amazon and Goodreads are all organic. It has over 600 plus ratings on Goodreads and 120 ratings on Amazon India. 

6) Write from your heart 

The most memorable praise I received from my mentor Anita Nair was that I write from my heart. And perhaps that was the reason why 'Without You' succeeded as well. 
The story was told through the eyes of the female lead and is comprised only of what she saw, heard and thought. I didn't know then that this type of narration is a popular new trend in modern fiction called the Deep point of view. I learnt about it later on and could understand why the majority of the readers who wrote to me praising 'Without You' told me they felt like they were Ananya, the female lead, as they read the book. Deep point of view does that to a reader.

'Without You' is still one of my most popular books and amazon selects it frequently for promotions. It gave birth to the Sreepuram series as readers wanted to know the stories of the other prominent characters in the book. I have written three books in the series now and two more on the way. 

Did you find these lessons helpful? 

Have you read 'Without you'? 

If no, it is available on Prime reading now for Free.
Free to read if you have Kindle Unlimited membership as well. 

Preview the book here:

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

How Storytel Rescued the Writer in Me


With the raging pandemic, we have been forced to change our routines.

In the absence of maids, I have to deal with finishing my household chores while working full time and also writing.

As a writer, I have to read more books. Like Stephen King says ‘If you don't read more books, you don't get the tools to write.’

Sadly, for me, with all the additional chores, I couldn't find time to read during the lockdown.

That was when I discovered Storytel. And literally, it saved the writer in me. It has transformed me into a listener alongside being a reader and author. I am glad that I can still enjoy my book time while managing my household chores.

Storytel is an audiobook app that you can subscribe to and listen to as many audiobooks as you want during your subscription. The app has more than 2lakh audiobooks to choose from and in 12 languages! I am also enjoying the books in Malayalam.


And all this comes with a monthly fee of INR 299/- only! Ideally, you would spend this amount on just one book. With Storytel, you can listen to as many as you want! Isn't that amazing? Not only this, but you can also download the audiobooks offline to listen to them later. This is an escape everyone should take!


I think the narration quality of their audiobooks is just perfect. It is like your favourite person reading out a book to you as you go through your daily chores. During these times, there’s nothing anyone needs more than this!

Storytel also has a section where the authors and celebrities narrate the book for you. You can find Jeffrey Archer's book being read by Lorelei King, Anupam Kher reading ‘Toba Tek Singh’ and Rahul Bose reading ‘Love letters’ and many more.

Audiobooks come in handy while one is cooking, travelling or cleaning – it simply makes gaining knowledge a lot more convenient and easier. Plugin your earphones and you are all set to get transported into a different world!

Let me tell you some of the interesting features among the many that Storytel has to offer:


      Sleep Timer: It has a sleep timer that allows you to set a sleep timer by clicking on the clock icon on the player. A menu pops out giving you the option to set the time. Once you do that, a moon icon appears on the timeline in the player showing when the set time. I would use this after a tiring day where I’d love to fall asleep while listening to an audiobook, reminds me of my good father narrating a story to put me to sleep in childhood.

      Speed Control: The speed control option allows you to control the speed of narration of the audiobook. Everybody has their own pace of listening and this feature is just the right addition.

      Bookmark: Another facility that we get is to create our own bookmarks. If you find any part of the book interesting, you can add a bookmark. Just tap on the bookmark symbol on the app and save it in case you want to go back to it again. I personally like to bookmark my favourite lines from the audiobooks. 

Now to tell you about the four audiobooks I listened to during this month.

This book is based on a series of lectures given by Harari at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The book tells the entire human history from pre-anatomically modern humans through agricultural and scientific revolutions. It's pretty intriguing and engaging. It looks at how Homo sapiens survived through the years and how we became what we are today.


The Healthy Writer by Joanna Pen

There are many health hazards associated with the territory of being a writer. Anxiety, depression, sleep problems, neck problems, eye strain, stress, loneliness, digestive issues. You name it, writers have to deal with it.

In this book, the author talks about how she dealt with her own struggles with being healthy. With her co-author Dr Euan Lawson, Joanna Penn teaches us how to reduce pain, improve health, and build a writing career for the long term.

This book was really an eye-opener for me.


The magic of thinking big by David J Schwartz.


I have read this book before as an e-book but I went back to listening to it as this has some very important lessons for anyone who understands the power of goal setting. And the experience of listening to it was entirely different. I feel ideas get imprinted more when you are listening to something.

Why I killed my husband by Anita Nair

This book is narrated by my mentor, author Anita Nair herself. That was added plus for me. This story can be anyone’s story but at the same time, it gives the feel of a thriller. It will keep you guessing and also has the typical Anita Nair brand of humour that will make you laugh out loud.

As you can see, Storytel pretty much rescued me from a reading slump. 4 audiobooks in a month. Not bad at all. It infused the writer in me with brand new ideas.

 Want to check out the app?

There is a limited period 90-day offer available as of now at INR 375/-only and I think you should grab this offer right away -

 What are you waiting for? Open your ears to stories!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Love and Longing in Firefly Season: Read an Excerpt



Rashi Ratnam, the newly minted design assistant of billionaire fashion designer Neel Mishra, is sceptical when she leaves on a field trip to Kerala with her temperamental boss.

It doesn't matter that she has been harbouring a crush on her gorgeous boss since forever.

The man intimidates her and is cold like ice.

Also, he hasn't still forgotten his ex-girlfriend. 

At Heaven's Cove, the beautiful backwater island owned by Neel's grandparents, Rashi begins to see Neel in a new light. She also discovers his best-kept secrets.

It is the firefly season, and there is nothing that stops her from falling madly in love with Neel.

But love is not easy.

With Neel's jealous ex-girlfriend hovering around them stirring up troubles, life becomes strenuous.

Can they face the curve balls that fate throws at them?

Or will their love die a slow death?

But in the end, is the choice theirs to make?

Read this heartwarming contemporary love story of letting go and letting love in.


The girl sitting next to Rashi seemed lost in her own reflection. Good for her! It was now worth staring at. Rashi watched as Sara, the main beautician, curled the girl’s long, silky tresses and pinned them into a loose bun at her nape. When she had entered this uptown Mumbai salon, the girl had looked like something the cat had dragged in. Now she looked like a Bollywood diva.

Rashi was in here for such a transformation. Else, the bullies at the fashion house where she worked would continue to irritate her until she exploded. Apparently, she looked like a scarecrow in their perfect paradise. Barely three months had passed since she had joined and already, she had pissed off a lot of people with her quick comebacks and don’t-care-attitude. 

She didn’t care two hoots about what others thought about her. She was there to learn design, not to be a fashion model. For some reason, the girls at the fashion house thought differently. To top it all, Kiarra, her boss’ girlfriend, the true-blue-fashionista who ran the fashion house, had already asked Rashi to always be well-groomed. Twice.

“All our clients are V.V.I.Ps. You don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable with your shabby ways, do you?” Kiarra had asked her just yesterday and Rashi had taken the day off to get a makeover. If she continued to annoy her, Rashi might have to bid goodbye to her dream job.  

Neel Mishra’s fashion house had been her dream destination right from when she had started designing clothes. The man was a magician when it came to couture. She wanted to learn from him, watch him create enchantment with clothes. But that would just remain a dream if she got herself thrown out before the man returned from his work trip to Florida.

Rashi scowled at her own reflection. Wavy hair, and butterscotch tinted, pimple-prone skin, courtesy of the genes she inherited from her father. A slightly plump disposition and a funny nose which flared too much whenever she was angry, courtesy of the genes from her mother. God must have given the job of creating her to an apprentice. A sloppy one at that. In a family of overly talented, beautiful people, she was an anomaly. 

Rashi belonged to the family of the Ratnams. The whole of India idolised her family. Her grandfather was a stalwart in the Telugu movie industry and her father had continued his legacy. Her brother, Rajeev Ratnam, was a hotshot movie director. Her mother, Urmila Ratnam, was a legendary movie actress. Her sister-in-law, Princess Ishaani, belonged to the Sravanapura Royal family and was also a leading Bollywood singer. 

And who was she? A struggling noob designer at a famous fashion house. She had concealed her true identity when she had joined the team. She had introduced herself as Rashi R to everyone, not Rashi Ratnam. She knew what would happen if her real identity was known. She would either make more enemies or end up having to cater to many fake friends. And then there was also the mockery.  Rashi didn’t want any of it. 

 Rashi hated going out with her mother. Most of her friends wondered how someone as beautiful as Urmila had managed to produce someone as plain-looking as her. And often, they told it to her face. Rashi quietly snuffed the flame of irritation in such situations. If not, her mother would make her regret every single word of outburst. And anyway, who wanted to make an impression on those plastic dummies?! Most of them couldn’t even smile thanks to the many plastic surgeries and Botox treatments they underwent.

Anyway, who cared?! Rashi let out a sudden yelp when the girl working on her right foot scrubbed the heel a bit roughly.

“Hello sweetheart, I do need it when I walk out of here,” Rashi whispered to the girl. Sara’s puny little assistant had somehow evoked sympathy in her. Else she would have snapped at her for being so rough. 

“Sorry, madam. But too much dead skin.”

“Don’t scrub too hard. It is painful,” said Rashi. 

The girl stopped scrubbing and went to the next phase of massaging her foot with some lotion. Too ticklish. Who knew her feet were this sensitive? Or was the girl deliberately torturing her? She narrowed her eyes at the girl. No. She seemed a bit scared. Good.

 Never ever go for a pedicure again, Rashi made a mental note. Dead skin be damned. She didn’t want anyone poking around her toes or heels ever.

Beside her, the newly minted beauty got up to leave. Rashi admired her graceful exit and mentally prepared herself for her own transformation. She was going to impress everyone at the welcome back party they were throwing for Neel this weekend. 

Monday, April 5, 2021

My 6-Step Process for Writing a Book while Working Full-time

“Go from wanting to become a Writer” to “being one.”

You have been toying with the idea of taking that plunge into writing.

But you work full-time.

You can't find time to write.

I get you...

I work full-time too.

I have a 6-step process that helps me

accomplish my writing goals.

Want to adopt them?

Let's begin...

Step 1: Guard your time: Practice Saying No

Scenario one: 

You have fixed working hours. A colleague asks for help.

You agree. He is a friend, after all. You slog at the computer for hours

solving another man's problem.

Scenario Two:

A get-together is being planned. You are unanimously chosen as the organizer. 

They say you are the smartest of the bunch.

You agree. 

You devote your free hours to planning and making the event a grand success.

Scenario Three: 

Your friend calls whenever you are both free. You spend

hours on the phone discussing other people's problems and despairing

where the world is going.

Are you someone who can relate to any of the scenarios mentioned


Do you have difficulty using the word 'No'?

Shield your time. A second gone is lost forever.

Step 2 : Prioritize: Fix a writing time

Even if you are a productivity superstar, writing can often get sidelined.

So, make writing your top priority.

Fix a time that suits you.

Promise yourself that you will write daily.

You don't need to dedicate hours to a writing project every day.

A few minutes at a time. Half an hour daily. A dedicated hour.

It can be anything.

Write a sentence, write a paragraph, write an entire chapter.

Get some writing done.

Remember, little drops of water make the mighty ocean.

Step 3: Plan

Like any project you undertake, your writing project also requires careful planning.

Whenever you get time, think about your book.

Allow it to get completely formed in your mind before you even start

If you are writing a novel, think about what you want to happen in the opening scene.

Think about the dialogues your characters might say.

Ponder on who your characters are? What makes them tick?

Decide how you want the story to progress.

Get clear on how you want the story to end.

Make post-it notes and pin them above your writing desk.

 Record voice memos if an idea comes to you while you are driving.

Keep a journal to jot down all new ideas.

Step 4: Create a blueprint ( Learn to plot)

Writer's block is one common problem that most writers face.

One of the reasons this occurs is because they do not know how to take the story forward.

Just like how an architect needs a blueprint to carry out construction,
you need a clear outline for your book.

In step 3, you must have created the necessary building blocks for your book.

In this step, you will arrange them and create a clear blueprint for your story.

Write down in detail what happens in each chapter of your book.

This will help you enormously when you sit down to write.

Step 5: Focus, Write!

Now that you have your blueprint ready, it is now time to get some serious writing done.

Switch off the internet.

Put your phone in silence mode.

Set the timer for 30 minutes and just write.

Let nothing distract you when you write.

Laser focus.

Enjoy the process!

Step 6: Set clear writing goals, reward yourself

Every day, set realistic goals according to your schedule.

Work towards it as much as you can.

Relax. Put on a piece of soothing music, and conquer your daily goal with a smile on your face.

If you achieve your daily word count target, pat yourself on the back.

If you reach your weekly word count target, reward yourself.

It can be anything.

A book you have been planning to buy.

A long bubble bath. A walk in the park.

Dinner at your favorite restaurant.

A quick weekend getaway.

Keep your writer self happy!


So let's recap...