Writing

To Hell and Back – My Writing Process

A budding writer recently connected with me offline and asked me how I write my stories. My initial reaction was ‘Duh, I just write them.’

But I realized, that’s not really true. After 30 published stories I have a fair bit of process. There is quite a bit of thought that goes in and I do have a process, if not an elaborate one.

First things first, I maintain a document listing out my ideas, and another one for prompts I collect. When it’s time to write a story, I choose one from either, and then I percolate the idea a bit, let it stew in my brain for a day or two so that I have my characters and scenes in place. This is what I call focused daydreaming, and it’s important to the outcome. For me it’s not even during the day – my go-to time for plotting out stories is usually in the minutes before I fall asleep, because that’s when the best ideas hit me.

A day or two later, I start writing. If the story is clear to me then I start typing straight away in Word. Many times, however, I’ve preferred instead to write by hand in a notebook and at some point, transfer the contents to a document. The point at which I transfer varies for each story. Sometimes it’s after a page or two, other times its almost until the end. I don’t always write the entire first draft by hand.

Once I’ve written it out completely, I close the document and forget about the story for a week, longer if possible. When I return to it I do so with a blank slate and renewed focus, and realize that all those quirks I deemed brilliant are not really so.

Then it’s back to the drawing board. I hit ‘Save as’ and create a version of the doc with a tentative title suffixed by date. I’m a programmer so I’m obsessive about version control 🙂

The title I choose initially may have nothing to do with the story, and may land up being just a descriptor, like ‘Friendship breakup story’. I brainstorm titles much later.

I edit the story once, then return to it again after a day or two. This cycle repeats until at some point when I feel it’s good enough, I send it out for feedback to one of my many writing peers. Or if it looks like I might miss a magazine’s submission deadline, I just go ahead and send it with the version I think is best. I try critiquing it as critically I can on my own, but of course it’s always best when another pair of eyes has looked at it.

Then comes the time for submission, which is a separate whole post by itself, but I’ll summarize here. I first try to find markets that have themed issues where my story might fit. If I analyze my published stories and even essays, I find this has the most chance of success. Apart from this, I search up to 5 venues where my stories might fit best.

If the first five lead to rejection (as it usually does!), there’s always the next five and the five after that! So on and so forth the process goes, until its either time to shelve the story or clap your hands in joy because its finally published!

So that’s my process. Not really rocket science, is it?

What’s your writing/creating process like? Any tips you would like to share? Let me know in the comments below.

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

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!

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

My Humor Piece in The Offing!

This happened a month ago, which equates to probably a decade in Internet terms, but better late than never so I thought I’d share it anyway!

My humor piece An Open Letter to the Stranger Who Sent Me a Friend Request appeared in The Offing’s humor section Wit Tea. I’m so happy this piece found such an excellent home!

Do have a read and let me know what you think!

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!