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?

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?

Writing

Ten Things I Love about being a Writer

Last week I wrote a post listing out all the things I hate about writing.

This time let’s look at the flip side. Here’s some of the things I love about it:

  1. It makes one feel alive
    Without writing I’d feel bored and bereft in life.
  2. Helps you learn new things about yourself and the world
    When you write something new, you invariably land up learning something new as well, even if you’re mining from your own life.
  3. It juggles the brain cells and makes you creative
    Monsieur Hercule Poirot would always let you know the importance of “ze little grey cells, mon ami!” and I’d agree with him.
  4. The sound and feel of a well written passage….
    …is just music to the ears!
  5. Keeps you on your toes
    Everyone knows walking or any kind of exercise only helps you improve your writing, so get on your feet and get moving!
  6. Makes you look smart!
    When you’ve written and published something, share the link with your friends and soak in the appreciation for your brilliance!
  7. Makes you empathetic
    Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, you’re forced to think from a different perspective than yours which increases your empathy.
  8. Gives you newfound appreciation for books you read
    When you’ve toiled hours for a five-hundred-word piece and its still nowhere close to perfection, you realize the effort every writer makes, no matter whether their books become bestsellers or not.
  9. Connects you with smart people on the same wavelength
    Writing is usually done in isolation but when you seek out fellow writers, you come to know so many talented people who share the same interests as you.
  10. Allows you to free the mind and demons in the mind
    Writing is known to be cathartic, and though it may not work for everyone, it certainly helps relieve and work out the kinks in the brain.

I’m sure you could come up with a few more reasons why you love writing, but while this is my list, feel free to add your own in the comments!

My Writing, Writing

Ten Things I Hate About Being a Writer

Don’t get me wrong – I love writing, especially now, despite all the gazillion rejections streaming in on a daily basis. I am finally enjoying the process, rather than indulging in the thrills of “having written.”

However there are quite a few things I don’t like about being a writer:

  1. So much to write, so little time

This is not the fault of writing of course, but it does demand intense concentration and time. The creative gene inspires ideas but the world doesn’t grant us the time to write all of them. It also takes away time from socializing in the real word – I’ve skipped many a weekend party in favour of writing.

  1. Sometimes, the words just don’t come

After stealing all that time, when I sit down to write, the words that bombard my brain at all the wrong times retreat into a shell and need immense coaxing to draw them out.

  1. When the words come, they’re crap

The first draft of everything is crap. It may improve with practice but sometimes it’s so bad it’s better to scrap it all and start again.

  1. When we send our stuff out we get rejections

In more than five years of writing and submitting, I can count only a handful of times that a piece I sent out was accepted by the first place I sent it to. My story that won 2nd place in the On The Premises contest last year is a good example of this.

  1. When we don’t send stuff out we’re not moving forward

The fear of rejection and submitting makes us hold on to our creative efforts, but without sending it out we’re not really taking ourselves to the next level

  1. We have to believe we’re the best in order to succeed

Writers need supreme confidence in themselves and their work so they can pitch agents and publishers and plough through despite all the rejections

  1. We have to accept we’re not the best so that we can improve in order to succeed

Writers also need to turn a critical eye on themselves so they can humbly accept feedback and revise their work to near-perfection

  1. Stuff that looks perfect today looks crap the next day

The final draft is never final and even after time and distance away from it when I see it next I feel its way below par.

  1. The right word lies on the tip of the tongue and rarely ever comes out

The struggle to find the word that exactly matches what you’re thinking of is perpetual. A thesaurus makes it easier but not always.

  1. Looks easy but is very tough to do

This is the biggest problem with writing – the easiest writing that looks the most effortless is actually the hardest to do.

How do you feel about writing these days? Anything you can add to the above list? W

reading, Writing

This Week in Writing and Publishing News

The last few weeks have seen have quite some excitement in the world of books and publishing. Each of the news pieces I’ve mentioned below are fascinating to read about.

A Suspense Novelist’s Trail of Deceptions

AJ Finn’s novel Woman in the Window became a huge bestseller last year. It followed the trend of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. But how much do you know about the author? This article on the New Yorker tells a long and absorbing tale of a writer whose personal life offers more drama than his books. Don’t miss this – worth a read despite the length.

YA author pulls debut novel due to accusations of racism

Author Amélie Wen Zhao had to pull her YA Fantasy novel after early reviewers dismissed the book as racist. This and other instances has created the need for sensitivity readers, though their impact on books and publishing is something we’ll observe in the years to come.

Jeff Bezos exposes Dan Pecker before he exposes him

I think everyone must have read about this one by now. The news was hardly out when McSweeney’s had a riposte ready. Check out I Am Jeff Bezos: Man Of Principle, Champion of the Exploited

Using Literary Techniques in Narrative Journalism

Not a news-related piece, but an excellent one nevertheless on livening up your nonfiction using storytelling techniques.

If all that wasn’t enough, here’s something to tickle your funny bone:

Eat Your Feelings at These New Restaurants for Writers“From the Memoir Bistro to the Rejection Café, we’ve invented 8 dining establishments for the literary”

All these articles gave me more than enough food for thought over the last few days. Anything else that caught your eye but missed mine? Let me know in the comments! ac

Writing

Resources for Literary Journals

It’s been 2 months since I last posted which is my longest gap in quite some time, but it can’t be helped, as I was tied down with health issues for myself and family members.

The writing has been sporadic to say the least, but I have managed a little in spurts.

I’m not sure if I’ve posted a resources list earlier, but since I have been submitting my writing for regularly for the last five years, I have accumulated quite a collection. A number of resources exist on the internet, but like everyone else I have a few favourites that lead to journals publishing fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry.

  1. Duotrope: This used to be free many years earlier but has now moved to a paid subscription model, costing $5 per month or $50 per year. I have subscribed the last two years and intend to continue, considering that I easily recover the cost within a few months.
  1. NewPages.com: This is an entirely free resource and includes a huge number of listings. However you might have to sift through quite a few to find the paying opportunities.
  1. The Review Review: If you’ve ever wondered what kind of content a literary journal publishes, The Review Review serves as your guide. It features reviews of journals, interviews with editors, and classifieds as well.
  1. Erika Dreifus’ Practicing Writing Newsletter: One of the best resources out there, with focus solely on paying opportunities.
  1. Trish Hopkinson: Her posts focus more on poetry markets, but since most feature fiction and creative nonfiction, they’re a great resource too.
  1. Entropy Mag: Entropy is itself a “website featuring literary and related non-literary content.” Every quarter they publish a list of submissions calls for the upcoming three months.
  1. Published to Death: A month-wise list of calls for submissions. An excellent resource for fiction and other creative writers.
  1. Ralan: This site has been around for many years and features mainly Fantasy, SF, and Horror markets.
  1. Submittable Discover: Submittable is known more for their submission platform that most literary journals use. They recently launched their Discover platform which helps writers/artists seek out opportunities and filter them based on their requirements. I find that it requires some work to unearth the paying ones.
  1. Poets and Writers: I came across this quite recently and found it a worthy addition to my list of resources.

One resource that I used to go through every month was Cathy’s Comps and Calls, but sadly it is not updated any more:
http://compsandcalls.com/wp/

I do hope Cathy Bryant returns with this but looks like for the time-being this is on hold.

That’s my comprehensive listing of resources. If you have any more do let me know! If any of the above leads you to publication, please leave a comment and let us all help you celebrate!

Writing

Short Story Month

In case you didn’t know already, May is celebrated as Short Story Month. At Penguin Random House, they offer a list of their best short story collections. Electric Literature too is celebrating this May.

I have blogged before about the Short Story Challenge I had participated in two years in a row, which really freed up my writing muscles as I strove to complete one short story every month. The exercise placed the focus on completion of the stories, which is really important. More often than not, we start stories with enthusiasm but find that it peters out.

In May, writers are encouraged to write one short story per day. That is too much even for me. At the most I could attempt flash fiction, but even a five-hundred-word piece with a coherent beginning and end is easier said than done.

Are you planning to write any new stories to celebrate Short Story Month in May? Do share links to your stories in the comments!