My Writing

An Even Keel

I’m pleased to share an essay of mine after quite a long gap. The HerStry blog had put out a call for submissions matching the May theme of motherhood. I sent in my submission and in ten days I got the happy news that it was accepted for publication.

You can read An Even Keel on the HerStry blog here.

Let me know what you think! If you have any work of your own to share, please drop a link in the comments below!

Writing

Short Story Month

Crickets have been chirping here for close to a month because I’ve had no time to pen a blogpost due to health issues in the family. In lieu of all the writing I could have done, I instead did some spring cleaning on my writing-related folders, though we are firmly in the thick of summer here.

May is celebrated as Short Story Month. There’s even a website and a challenge associated with it – write a short story every day in the month of May. If you want to try it even now, you can sign up here. You will get a prompt for each day which would result in at least a flash piece if not a full-fledged short story. I find a short story (of around 3000 words) takes between 3 days to a week to finish the first draft. If I let it linger any longer than that then the story idea and the excitement that drove me to write it fades just a little.

I have never been brave enough to attempt this challenge. The most I’ve done is write one short story per month and even that’s a pretty good pace for me.

Lit Hub has compiled an excellent collection of links in celebration of Short Story Month, including a look at one of the best short stories ever.

Some of my favourite short stories (mainly from the pre-Internet-era) include:

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

I read this story as a tween, and it has stayed with me ever since. Any story by O. Henry is a pleasure to read, but this is one of the best.

A Temporary Matter by Jhumpa Lahiri

The author’s debut short story collection The Interpreter of Maladies won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999, and quite deservingly so. This story introduces the collection, and one of the best of the lot.

Mrs. Packletide’s Tiger by Saki

Saki was the pseudonym of Hector Hugh Munro and there are several stories of his that are more popular, like Sredni Vashtar. I read this story Mrs. Packletide’s Tiger in school, and enjoyed it a lot, especially the humour in it.

The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant

Guy de Maupassant wsa another prolific genius writer of short stories, and this is one of his most famous twist-ending stories. Read it here.

The Luncheon by W Somerset Maugham

One of the funniest short stories by the great W Somerset Maugham. Though his novels are filled with pathos, this particular story wins on humour and irony!

What are your favourite short stories? Are you writing any short stories right now? Let me know in the comments below!

Writing

Rules of Writing

In a bid to improve my writing, I soak up tons of blog posts and articles online hoping that they contain tiny little nuggets of advice that will prove useful for me. Let’s be frank – not just prove useful, I hope they’ll transform my writing and turn me into a Booker-winning author. Perhaps that’s just a teeny bit too ambitious, but a girl can dream, right?

Websites like Brain Pickings, The Guardian, Aerogramme Writers Studio routinely run a series of these compilations of tips from various bestselling authors. I’ve amassed a whole collection of them!

First learn the rules then break them

Check the resources below and let me know your favourites!

Rules of Writing from 35 writers

Elmore Leonard’s advice to writers

George Orwell’s tips for Effective Writing

Joyce Carol Oates’ 10 tips on Writing

Jonathan Franzen’s 10 rules for writing fiction

PD James’ 5 bits of writing advice

Hilary Mantel’s Ten Rules for Writing Fiction

Michael Moorcock’s Ten Tips for Good Storytelling

John Steinbeck’s Writing Tips

Michael Morpurgo’s Rules for Writers

Sarah Waters’ Rules for Writers

Zadie Smith’s Ten Golden Rules for Writers

The tips in Roddy Doyles Rules for Writers make sound sense:

1 Do not place a photograph of your ­favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.

9 Do not search amazon.co.uk for the book you haven’t written yet.

I like this one the best for the utter simplicity of the rules:

Neil Gaiman’s Eight Rules of Writing

Do you have any tips or rules that you always follow? Which is your favourite set of rules? And who’s the writer whose tips have helped you the most?

My Writing

The Mantoux Test

A few years ago, a sudden health scare drove me to the hospital for a couple of medical tests like an MRI and another to detect for TB. All came back negative and nothing worrying, but it did spark a story idea for me.

If a man suspected his wife of cheating on man, who could he approach to help solve his troubles? In my story he consults a godman, who suggests a slightly unconventional approach to detecting the wife’s infidelity.

The story I wrote called ‘The Mantoux Test’ was accepted for publication last year in the Transmundane Press’ Transcendent anthology.

Transmundane Press’ Transcendent Anthology

Click here to read an excerpt!

This post tells the ‘story behind the story’.

And here’s my interview with The Transmundane Press.

Do let me know what you think of the excerpt! If you’ve published anything recently, feel free to drop a link in the comments below!

Movies

20 years of The Matrix

In the summer of ’99, I queued up with my then-boyfriend (now-husband) outside a movie theatre waiting to see an action movie, little knowing that it would be the action movie to define the genre for decades to come. I didn’t know or care much about the content – it featured Keanu Reeves. That was all I needed to know. I had developed a serious crush on him since I had seen him in Speed, though of course I hadn’t revealed that to my boyfriend at that time. (He knows now, though)

When we finally watched it, the first action sequence simply blew us away. We held on to our seats, eager for more. Even in the theatre with tattered barely-there seats, unhygienic but tasty samosas, I dawned on us that we were in for something special.

I understood the basic concept, but my sister and several of my friends understood little of it, and derived what pleasure and enjoyment of the movie from the continuous unfurling of action.

I am talking about The Matrix of course. Twenty years have passed since its release, which is astounding given how well it holds up even after recent viewing. I showed it to my eleven-year-old daughter the other day, and it shocked her that it was so old. She thought I was showing her a new movie.

I told her all the cultural impacts the movie had in addition to the effects on action movies. Every movie after the Matrix featured the same effects and they’re repeated until now.

The long black trench coats with sunglasses became a signature look of any show that wanted to look cool.

However, to properly understand the movie, I had to read the book Taking the Red Pill, which explained the Christian influences and the significance of each pivotal scene. I smacked my head – why hadn’t I thought of it before? The references should have jumped right out at me.

I remember watching it multiple times in the cinema hall. Unfortunately once I watched it with my mother, who is, to put it politely, not an action movie buff.

Dear reader, she laughed.

She laughed louder than she did when reading 101 Jokes for Kids. Her belly ached and trembled more than Santa Claus high on holiday spirits.

It was the most embarrassing experience I had ever been through. People around us were giving me nasty looks, probably wondering what the joke was, or where we could find the comedy.

Despite all the accolades, the next two movies that promised similar but better action sequences and storylines simply disappointed.

I loved Keanu Reeves in everything he did, but my sister just dismissed him as “Mr. Wood”, because of his lack of expressions while acting. It surprised me to know that he wasn’t the first choice of the directors or the studio, but got it only after everyone else rejected it. This included Will Smith who was then shooting for Wild Wild West (not sure if that’s supposed to be a pun), and we all know how well that went.

The Matrix is full of juicy one-liners and action sequences. To list my favourites would be to describe the entire movie, but Wired offers a pretty nifty rundown of the best scenes.

The Atlantic writes about how such an original movie would probably not even be made today.

The Matrix remains one of my favourite movies until now. If I ever find it playing, you bet I’m going to watch it.

If you’re from “The Matrix generation”, let me know your fondest scenes and memories of the movie!

Writing

Writing – Expectations vs Reality

All those years ago, when I picked up a pen for the express purpose of writing a humor piece, little did I know I’d caught an obsession that would last so long. Despite brief breaks and gaps when I never picked up a pen for months on end, writing has proved a steady and loyal companion through the years.

But there’s no doubt that the life of a writer I had pictured did not match the reality!

1.         Writer’s expect: Words to flow easily from the pen like so many rolls of silk being unfurled

The Reality: They don’t, not without regular practice, and even then it’s like pulling teeth.

2.         Writer’s expect: to love writing always in every moment and forever more.

The Reality: Not always. The days when the words aren’t coming or rejections clog the inbox do not really feed the muse.

3.         Writer’s expect: to write everyday

The Reality: Again not always, for a host of reasons – no time, no energy – physical or emotional, fear of failure, fear of success. Sometimes editing/revising/marketing/pitching will take priority.

4.         Writer’s expect: that every piece will find a home

The Reality: Ironically some of our favourite pieces might never find a home or take an incredibly long time to do so. Do I speak from personal experience? Nah! Every story I’ve ever written has found the perfect home LOL!

5.         Writer’s expect: Increased Practice means improved quality

The Reality: This one’s so close its almost 100% true, except that one also needs to diversify the type of writing they’re doing and focus on targeted practice.

What differences have you found between the dream of writing and the hardcore reality of it?

reading

Tsundoku

I recently learned about the practice of Tsundoku, which means hoarding books in vast numbers, more than you ever intend to read.

I admit – I’m guilty of this. The appearance, the smell and the touch of books excites me so much. Even the sound of the spine of a hardcover being cracked open!

If I don’t have a big TBR I don’t feel life is worth living. The large list of books I want to read practically gives meaning to my life! I live and love to read them one by one and knock them off my list.

Despite having hundreds of books in my shelves, I still maintain a huge list which I plan to wade through whenever my kids allow or after they sleep. Both of them suffer an unfortunate tendency to tear out the last few pages from my books, which makes reading crime thrillers or suspense thrillers a somewhat unviable enterprise.

For a few years in between I quelled my urge of buying new books by getting hooked to the neighbourhood library, but as the quality there started dipping, I renounced my membership and now manage with KU and Prime reading memberships only.

Now I maintain my books read and to-be-read on GoodReads, which I’ve resumed updating. This works out pretty well.

Check out my new bookshelf in the image above! As you can see there’s plenty of space in it and it’s only a matter of time before books are spilling out of it. �

Use this link to connect with me on GoodReads! I’d love to see what everyone else is reading.