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Archive for the category “Wrimo India – NaNoWriMo”

HOW BOLLYWOOD, POLITICS AND CRICKET CAN HELP YOU WRITE A BETTER NOVEL THIS NOVEMBER

As 1st November comes upon us in a few hours from now, the excitement escalates. Whether it is the first attempt at NaNoWriMo, or the 7th (as in my case), the enthusiasm and a little something happening in the lower back and somewhere near the heart region (some say these are the signs of hyperventilation – same as what happened to Bella everytime she saw Edward Cullen) is present each and everytime.

As the ML (Municipal Liaison, aka Main Cheerleader and Motivator) for India, my greatest joy comes from motivating wrimos to fulfill their authorial goals. I, then, feel like a godparent to those novels which were born or brought up in NaNoWriMo.

NaNo-2015-ML-Badge-Large-Square

Many blogposts have already been written about how to tackle NaNoWriMo (do check out the Wrimo India – NaNoWriMo Category on the right of this page).

Today I’m sharing with you a post which I wrote last year for the NaNoWriMo blog. Sharing it once again because the elements of  a novel haven’t really changed, even if the style of doing it might have, in a case or two.

Happy Writing and Reading, then 🙂

NaNoWriMo is an international event, and the stories being written every year reflect our hundreds of participating regions. We’re taking a Road Trip to NaNo to hear from our amazing volunteers and writers all around the world. Today, Sonia, our Municipal Liaison in the India region shares how to unite the diversity of description, plot, and motivation to write a great novel in November:

India is a land of diversities: physical features that range from the Himalayas to the oceans, weather that traverses the extremities; and cultural differences that encompass dress, food and language. These dissimilarities aside, there are three topics that make most Indians’ hearts beat faster: Bollywood, politics and cricket.

Bollywood, or How to Fill Your Novel with Song and Dance

Bollywood, as the Hindi film industry is known, is located in the city of Mumbai which is the financial capital of India. It is also the capital of beauty and emotions, which form the base of Bollywood. Hordes of starry-eyed youngsters throng the film studios with the hope of making their debuts in films whose earnings are inching closer and closer to what the Indian Mission to Mars cost. Emotions rule us Indians, and Bollywood turns those emotions into things we sing and dance about, no matter the genre.

Your NaNoWriMo novel, too, needs … Read more here.

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OFFICE, OFFICERS, OFFERS

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) earlier known as the Office of Light and Letters is a c 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded by Chris Baty.

Every newbie Wrimo worships Chris Baty and so does every veteran Wrimo because the NaNoWriMo he founded is so awesome. There is though a limit to what a man can do alone so helping him sustain that awesomeness is a group of dedicated staffers.

Since I first became a Wrimo in 2009, Heather Dudley was a familiar figure in the forums moderating and ensuring none of the posts violated the ethics and essence of NaNoWriMo.

Now, many years later, Heather Dudley is the Lead Forums Moderator.

Another well-known figure was that of Emily Bristow aka Lazym, whose name is so deceptively inapt because the major activity that took place behind the scenes to ensure the unimpeded conduct of NaNoWriMo could be partly attributed to her. She will be missed this year as she goes forward to fulfill her creative urges. We wish her great success in her efforts.

When I first became the ML in 2011, it was Sarah Mackey who was guide and mentor and general information and feel-good cheer dispenser and we hope to see her again in this year’s NaNo after her maternity break (hope she posts pics of the baby). In her place we now have the soup for the soul Paige Knorr (couldn’t help that punny remark since Knorr soups are a popular pre-dinner snack in India) who has kept us abreast of all things official in NaNo as efficiently and lovingly as Sarah used to.

Now that Chris Baty  is Board Member Emeritus, the other Chris aka Chris Angotti is the director of Programs (overseeing NaNoWriMo, Camp NaNoWriMo and Young Writers Programme) while Grant Faulkner is the Executive Director.

The IT system of NaNo is the lifeline of millions of novel writers all over the world and the magicians who keep the digital wheels spinning are Dave and Jezra. A happy hi-five to them.

Then there is Tim Kim, who as Editorial Director takes care of all matters related to communication – including The NaNoWriMo Blog – and also oversees the interns.

NaNoWriMo winners are a pampered lot. Besides the purple ribbon of the winner against their name, they get access to some wonderful offers. The far and wide reach of NaNoWriMo has drawn many sponsors that provide goodies to the winners. CreateSpace and Scrivener have been around for quite a while and recent additions have been Wattpad, Kobo Writing life, Lulu.com, Storyist software, and many more.

Scrivener : As their tag line says: Outline. Edit. Storyboard. Write., is a word processor and project management tool for the Mac and Windows.

CreateSpace (put creativity to work, is what their tagline mentions) provides Wrimos with a host of publishing options.

Free proof copies delivered anywhere in the world are some of their exciting offers for the winning wrimos.

Kobo Writing Life: A wonderful cache of 10 exciting books were offered absolutely free to the winning wrimos.

And many many more such offers.

 

(This post is part of A-Z Blogging Challenge 2014 (actually, catching up with the challenge))

NANOWRIMO IS A HEAD FAKE

(Written by Sonia Rao and first posted after NaNoWriMo 2011, but is still very relevant)

Having finally come out of the post-NaNoWriMo stupor I decided that being a three time winner of the NaNoWriMo and an ML during one entitles me to do a post-mortem of the writing event.

And this is what I have discovered: ‘NaNoWriMo is a head fake’.

It is a well-known fact that the ‘funda’ behind NaNoWriMo is to complete writing a novel of at least 50K words in the 30 days of November. Lakhs of people all over the world attempt it and almost tens of thousands of people complete the challenge and are declared winners. Many Nano-novelists are born and many of them are published (one or two of them have even gained prominence in recent times).

NaNoWriMo, while encouraging us to write a novel in 30 days, also teaches us a lot of other things some of which I have enumerated below:

1)    A novelist or a writer must maintain a regular schedule of writing everyday (not only in November and not only 1667 words- even though that itself is a good start too). Many of us might attempt it even haphazardly; write a lot on one day and then slack off for a few. While this might work, well-known published writers have had a simple credo: Write everyday; because that is what a writer does!

2)    Everyone has a novel within them and the Nano novel is that one. Once that is done, the writer has to start exploring other sources of ideas and genres of fiction to write in.

3)    50K words are sufficient to be declared a Nano winner but in reality a novel could be anything from 60K to even 1,20,000K depending on the genre your novel belongs to. A writer has to write till his story is told and the number of words might not fall in the standard bracket. Word count matters to a newbie author as publishers would not be willing to experiment with new – author novels.

4)    Even if you have read truckloads of novels and continue to do so you will still need to learn the craft of novel writing to ensure your final product is of the highest quality. It would thus, not be a very good idea to send your Nano Novel, in its first draft avatar (pantsed or planned but not revised or edited) to the publisher.

5)    You might have completed any number of writing courses but unless you have actually attempted writing a novel (and even better, become a Nano winner) you will not really get the feel of what novel writing entails.

6)    Many writers of yore wrote by hand and they wrote delightfully too. But the first time I started writing a novel, I actually got bored of writing by hand, the hand moved much slower than the mind. Many months later when I read over the first few pages of the hand-written draft I almost puked at the heaviness and dullness of the prose. Nanowrimo helps us to avoid this lethargy in our script by giving us a deadline which can only be completed if typed on a device though it can be attempted by hand too, but is it fair to put your hand to use for one month only and then leave it to recuperate for the rest of the year?

What new and unexpected things have you learnt while attempting the NaNoWriMo?

UMM…SORRY, EXCUSE ME!

“Do you like your tea with sugar?”

“Umm, yes…”

“How many cubes?”

“Aah…one, yeah one is fine.”

Alfred  Hitchcock once said that a good story was “life, with the dull parts taken out.”

So, unless this was a dialogue in a play or a movie or else that part of your story where the cube of sugar plays an important role, the above mentioned section of dialogue would make any reader cringe and no author can afford that to happen.

Dialogues often contribute to increasing the white space on a page and accompany a dilemma faced by a writer: Narrative or dialogue? They are a means of taking the story forward, its magnitude depending upon the genre the novel belongs to. Many a times, as you must have especially noticed in movies and teevee serials, dialogues are a way of revealing information and character motivations.

A good way to understand the difference between a real-life dialogue and the way it is used in a novel is to eavesdrop on a conversation between two people. You would hear a lot of Ahs, Umms, and even Ohs, which would act as real speech breakers in your novel. Editing the dialogues to make them relevant and snappy can be done once the novel is written. If you are writing the first draft, dialogues could crop up and you might even write them as dialogues. In case your first draft is written as a narrative they could be the base from which your dialogues would emerge, taut and to the point.

Some quick tips to writing dialogues in your first draft:

You might actually use narrative form in your first draft and add the dialogues later.

Dialogues should serve a purpose without the use of bulky words and expressions.

It is not always necessary to use dialogue tags such as said, expostulated, revealed and so on. They way the dialogues are written – such as starting on a fresh line for each new character that speaks – should enable the reader to judge who is doing the talking.

Giving different characters different talking quirks helps to avoid dialogue tags and increase the interest level of the novel.

Peruse a lot of novels to understand the correct punctuation of the dialogues.

How do your characters…err… umm… talk? How wordy are the dialogues in your novel?

CONFLICT AND CHANGE

Once upon a time, in a resource rich kingdom lived a kind and just king with his beautiful queen. Their two gorgeous, well-behaved children were the apple of their eye. The prince and the princess though brought up in the lap of luxury, grew up unspoiled and smart. The prince married the pristine sweet princess of the neighbouring kingdom and since she was a single child, the prince got to rule over her kingdom too.

The princess, meanwhile, fell in love with a prince endowed with such physical and material qualities that no parent in their right mind could object to the match

With the children well-settled the aged King and Queen could now with a peaceful mind undertake the pilgrimage they always wanted to.

Yes, I can see you stifling that yawn.

Have you ever sat in front of the TV watching a daily soap, knowing that you still haven’t finished your daily quota of writing but unable to drag yourself away from the saas-bahu drama with its intricate twists and turns.

A quick glance at the morning headlines in any newspaper will inform you of the latest ills that have befallen the world/ country/city/town.

The above examples contain ample evidence to show that we are eager to read stories of pain, strife and unhappiness. The rest just makes us yawn.

If your protagonist has everything going hunky-dory for her, how long would your reader want to stick around to read her tale, in which nothing actually happens? How interested would we have been in the love story of Elizabeth and Mr.Darcy, if it had been love at first sight for them or in Lisbeth Salander’s story if she had been living a staid and normal life of a software geek?

The strife, tribulations and conflicts faced by our Main Characters and how they overcome them are the hooks that will keep the reader turning the pages of our novel. Go back again and check. Does your MC have any conflict in her life? She does? Good. Now treble it. Make your MC suffer a lot and then some. The more the suffering of the MC the more the reader gets invested in knowing what is going to happen next.

As wise and experienced authors often say, it is conflict that makes a good story and the absence of it is just narration. The transformation of the MC, through trials and tribulations, is what a gripping story is all about.

A few points to make the conflict stronger and viable:

  • The Protagonist and Antagonist should be equally powerful. A powerful antagonist will add depth to the MC’s fight against him/her/it.
  •  Just adding violence or physical obstacles does not add conflict to the story.
  • Conflict could be physical or mental.
  • The protagonist’s struggle must arouse the reader’s empathy for the reader to continue reading to know what happens next.
  • It’s true that the conflict in your story is restricted to your characters but the reader must feel he too has gained a personal insight from the MC struggle to reach his objective.

What are the conflicts that your MC is facing or going to face and how is it going to change him/her?

How NaNoWriMo can change your World

(Sreeja Harikrishnan loves rain and nature and painting and really hates to make a fuss. NaNoWriMo has made a huge difference in her life and here she tells us how).

Sometimes small things change your life, even if it doesn’t matter much to anybody else; it will give an invisible but all invasive quality to your life. The stars you gazed at silent nights when you were still at your teens, wondering how many other people will be watching the same stars, suddenly come to mind and asks, “Hey, do you know how many other people are reading your crazy scribbling?” That’s quite a question for a timid, not-so-confident person like me.

The end of October2011, most boring time, not because life was unhappy with you, but the unreasonable ennui that crept in—and so the small feature in The Hindu seemed like a world of fantasy. It was about NaNoWriMo that was about to begin on 1st November, the mad rush to write a novel of 50,000 words in a month. Simply speaking, today when I turn back, the world, in effect a virtual world and the friends I gained through Nanowrimo, are such a precious part of my life.

Throughout that November I was writing thousands of words daily, so when November went back to come again, I found myself with this irresistible habit of writing. That’s how I started the blog ‘writingonjusttowrite.blogspot.in.’ I joined the blogging world just to have that happiness I got through writing, nothing more and nothing else. But it gained me a lot of friends who appreciate my humble poems. The biggest surprise came when my poetry got published in an e-magazine… and now two of them are coming in a printed anthology soon. Am I dreaming? Thanks NaNoWriMo, and thanks to our dear ML out there. The me who writes hails from that realm. The incredible feeling that you get while writing on those Novembers with your Wrimo friends, is something that can never be substituted with anything else.

English, Hindi and Malayalam were just a medium for reading novels and articles for me (apart from communicating). But when I began writing, the wonderful aspects of a language, the way it can do wonders in spreading ideas; the way each word wraps in meanings; the way even a comma can change meanings, filled me with a different perspective.

Writing gave me confidence. It’s been eight years since I completed my studies, but never tried for a job seriously. I was so much absorbed in my family that the outer world never mattered for me. But now I think in a different way, maybe that’s why I tried for a job, to have the experience with the outer world, to go out alone. Thanks to that confidence, today I am a copy editor, have some good friends and moreover have a special corner, where I am just the ‘me’ without any designation, just the ‘me’.

When you are really in love with writing, it changes the way you think. It makes you think without prejudices, and think most sensibly. You wonder if the world too can be changed to a better way. Ah now that’s something too farfetched!

I thank NaNoWriMo for the way it is spreading the habit of writing, because small things matter and it can be a beginning to better things.

Drops drops just drops, words

                                    The pond’s filled, insights

                          Flow flow and flow, ocean

abundance!

Your Place or Mine?

Sonia Rao asks, “What is the role of the setting in your novel?”

  • When George Lucas first wrote the script of Star Wars, he was rejected by every major studio, all of them expressing the same concern, “No one would pay to see a film about a war in space.”
  • A large part of Aravind Adiga’s latest offering ‘Last Man in the Tower’ is set in Vishram Housing Society, located in Santa Cruz (East), a suburb in Mumbai.
  • One of the beloved classics, ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Brontë, is set in the gloomy moors of the English countryside.

Though the setting has played an important role in each of the stories mentioned above the author doesn’t refer to them over and over again but it is also true that the settings have imbued the stories with a particular outlook and the characters with well-defined attitudes and characteristics. Outer space is no longer the same after Star Wars and in Wuthering Heights the moors form a suitably gloomy backdrop to Heathcliffe and Catherine’s doomed love story.

Every Mumbaikar is privy to life in the eastern suburbs as compared to the western and both are completely different to that in ‘town’ the southernmost part of Mumbai. In ‘Last Man in Tower’ Aravind Adiga has ingeniously interwoven these nuances to add depth to his story.

It is thus quite apparent that the setting is one of the key components of a gripping novel and adequate attention must be paid to ensure that there are no elements in the setting that could jar with the reader.

The setting, which sets the mood of the story and depends heavily on the genre, includes but is not restricted to:

  • Location landmarks: This is tricky if you are too specific about certain buildings in your area. Heritage buildings have survived for centuries and in all likeliness shall continue to do so. But other non-descript buildings, shopping centres and theatres are subject to realty changes in any city so if you are considering using such landmarks in your story ensure a way to do so that they do not make your story obsolete.
  • Garb: Clothes maketh a man and in a novel, that could very well be true. If you are writing about ancient Greek, the toga would be the favored piece of clothing and not trousers which were disdained as fit to be worn only by barbarians. And if your novel is set in outer space the ensemble would differ accordingly.
  • Dialect: A lot of research would be required and extra care would have to be taken that once your characters start speaking in the dialect of the place they belong to they don’t inadvertently fall into modern language usage.
  • Culture: Social attitudes that prevailed during the duration of your novel’s setting will drive your characters to behave as they do.

Only when all the five senses are engaged in describing the setting, will then the appropriate mood of the novel be set, leading to doubling the reader’s pleasure.

Confessions of a Wrimo

(Dola, first-time wrimo, loves blogging and writing stories and often combines them for added pleasure).

You don’t need to be a philosopher to know that decisions have the power to change lives. But you may need a click-happy person like me to tell you that a click can change lives too. Really!

After writing scripts for short school plays, helping my colleagues write numerous speeches and blogging for pleasure, I finally prepared myself to take a giant leap – to write a novel. I was a voracious novel reader but was I prepared to write one? It can’t be denied, I needed help. And who better to ask than Google Baba? I was skeptical when I clicked the National Novel Writing Month link. A novel in a month? Looked far-fetched. But, I can vouch for it now that that fateful click in October 2012 changed my life forever.

Resolving to lock my inner editor out, I began my become-a-novelist-in-a-month journey last November. All I wanted from the deal was the first 50k words of my first draft and the coveted purple ribbon of the winner. What I received was much more. I received the blessing of friendship, of camaraderie. I now belonged to a community that believed in companionship, made you holler with laughter, shared their best practices, agreed to help without you even asking, kept you updated with latest news from the writing world and most importantly took joy in your achievements and motivated you despite the rejections. Even now, I remember the late night writing exercises, fingers flying on the keyboard mostly to bizarre prompts and our India ML cheering us on to touch the winning mark. I felt nostalgic as if I was back in my university hostel and studying late night with friends.

I made the acquaintance of published authors, soon-to-be-published authors, great storytellers and even newbies like me. I took part in many contests, won a few and lost many more. But I would never forget the help extended to me by my fellow wrimos who were themselves keeping a tight schedule. I would never forget the ever ready I-will-be-glad-to-help-you messages and the easy smiles, the helpful nudges in the right direction and the cheerful pats on the back. When you know you are not alone in a journey it becomes more interesting. I know I am a better human being today, a better struggling-to-be-published writer. And the credit goes to NaNoWriMo.

Are YOU ready to change your life?

[Hint: It’s just a click away]

Tackling the NaNoWriMo by the horns

(Sonia Rao reveals some secret tips to aceing NaNoWriMo. Well-begun is half-done, they say. So, with four months remaining to NaNoWriMo it is certainly a good idea to start prepping, no?)

You win the NaNoWriMo (lovingly called nano) if you write a novel of atleast 50K words, in a month.

Non-fiction writing is not considered in this competition so even if you are a world-famous rocket scientist, you cannot write a book containing fool-proof rocket – making formulae, but you can certainly write a 50K word story about your main character who, incidentally, is a rocket scientist and involved in developing an eco – friendly rocket which can go to Mars and come back with actual water samples and more (let your imagination fly loose here, you great sci-fi fans).

Now, I hear a clamour around me that says: “I am not a rocket scientist; I am just a student/housewife/vice-president of a company. I don’t have a story, what shall I write about?”

So, how does one actually tackle the Nano?

My two Nano experiences have taught me many things. The foremost of those is that if a writer wants to write a novel, he/she must write everyday. And not just the one you will do in November, which you will do anyway, if you want to win. I am talking of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours kind of writing. This kind of quantity is required to finally come up with a book that you can get published in the traditional way (no guarantees, even then).

Is this your first nano?

If yes, then, write, write and write. Don’t worry too much about your story outline, characters, plot points, conflict, and so on, at this point.

Get that first story off your chest and into the pages.

Mind you, I am referring to those writers who have never taken formal training in writing but love to write for the love of it and do it sporadically but with a much better average expertise than a layperson(sounds almost like a requirement for a writing ‘Masterchef India’, doesn’t it?).

Even in this madness there is a method.

(BTW, did I mention you have to write everyday, write everyday, write everyday. I did, didn’t I? You don’t know what to write, is it? How about using word prompts: they can lead to some truly delightful stories.)

For the nano, you will begin with at least one idea that is in your head since the last 15 years / 3 months/last night. And you will think about this idea as you go about studying for the irritating exams that will happen as soon as the colleges open after diwali vacation / getting the maid to do the Diwali cleaning to the level that only your obsessive-compulsive brain can accept/ listening to your new client’s incessant whingeing about your fees and who is incidentally an a&% -h&%# but you needed to take on this account in order to reach your target.

What’s my name? What’s my name?*

And just as you are ready to drop off to sleep while studying/ scream at your maid because she dropped your expensive (no, horrendously expensive) Ming vase while cleaning/ tear your hair (you really need to be using one of those shampoos that people, who pull cars and vans out of ditches with their hair, use) the name of your Main Character (MC)blinks on your nano radar (inside your mind) and if you are not prepared you could find yourself running like a headless chicken for a pen and paper to jot down the name before you forget it.

And then you will find these visions visiting you often and at awkward moments.

Scenes or vignettes involving your MC and other character actors will flash through your mind unpredictably and especially at very uncomfortable moments such as when after a gut-wrenching, mind-numbing day at college/ home/office, you are finally ready to rest your weary head (but of course, the rest of your body follows, I don’t think there’s anyone that puts their head to sleep before going to bed themselves, hehehe) on this cool white linen – covered pillow. The most obvious reaction of any non-writer person would be to turn their head and yawn and go to sleep.

Can a writer do that? No, never!  because if they did, they would have no answer to the question, “What shall I write?”

*best said in the tune of a latest bollywood item song.

What crap is this!

(Seventeen days into NaNoWriMo 2012, Laxmi Chichra, had an epiphany. And here it is, shared with all. The best advice for writing the first draft).

Hello everyone.  I am Laxmi aka lostghost, writing this post. Well, I am not the right person to hand out the advice to anyone. After all, this is my first time too. But I am just sharing my experience.

For past seventeen days, I have been struggling to pull those characters out of my mind onto the paper. Somehow I have reached 20k. I know I am way behind many, and way ahead of many too.

Yesterday I sat to write further and the only words resounding in my mind were“What Crap!!! Who is going to read this story? I am supposed to write a romance and my hero entered the pages after 13.5 k words.”

I am sure you people are also facing the similar mid-novel crisis. How many of you want to dump those words written? Do you also want to forsake all the pages that have been written and rewrite them again? I know I want to do that.

But I won’t because these words are the proof of that I sat on my laptop for those hours and toiled over them. These words are the proof that I had tried to write the novel. If nothing else, these words would be the tangible proof of my hard work of last fifteen days.(Moreover, I am not sure I will ever be able to 50k otherwise.)

So what I m left with? Crappy 19k words and some more days to go. For two days, I did not write anything. It was just me and the Diwali celebrations. That was when my mum asked, “Has your laptop crashed?”

Nobody expects me to write a novel, leave alone write a riveting novel. And publishable novel?  I need at least three weeks to perfect a 500 words story. So, how can I write perfect 1667 words in a day?

That is when I was handed out the best advice. It is the crap that generates carbon, which in turn produces that coal and the diamonds. So maybe I am producing crap, but I have a hope at least some percentage of it will be salvageable.  Even if it is one sentence, it will be one sentence more than I started. And a few improbable premises ideas less than I began.

So I am not going to hit that backspace button just now. I will worry about that may be in Jan or Dec.  For now, I have those 30 k words to write and prove myself that writing novel is not that big a deal.

So let us harness our characters back to the roller coaster and let them have that one ride of a novel-adventure we promised them in the beginning of the month.

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