What to Write When You’re Not Writing

I don’t usually post twice in one week but this time I have to make an exception. My post on What to Write When You’re Not Writing is up on the SFWA blog.  

If you have ever faced the torment of the blank page, or a dull phase in writing when you can’t pen something substantial but don’t want to lose the habit, then this article is for you.  

Do read it and let me know if it helps you. Here’s an excerpt: 

Writing when you’re in full flow is like living a dream. Who doesn’t love that feeling when the words spill out faster than you can type them? If you’re old school, the scratch of the pen as it flies over the pages struggles to keep pace with your thoughts.

The reverse scenario keeps writers awake at night. Often, we’re stuck for topics on which we want to write. Even if we do write a page or two, once we read it through, we feel that every word is junk, and destined straight for the recycle bin. The words that leave our brains and imprint themselves on the screen appear stale.

But we’re writers, so we can’t really stop writing, or stop think about writing, or even stop reading about writing. There’s one thing we know for sure – that magic of full flow always returns, sooner or later.

So the question arises – how to make it sooner rather than later? How do we achieve that feeling of full flow once again?

Here’s what I usually do when I don’t feel like writing something new, but my fingers are itching to put something down on paper nevertheless.

Read the rest on the SFWA blog.

 

F or NF?

Ever since I picked up creative writing, I have written a mix of fiction and nonfiction. I launched my writing career with a nonfiction humour piece that found publication in a major Indian women’s magazine called Femina. I followed it up with several more pieces of humorous nonfiction, but I tried my hand at writing fiction alongside as well. In this endeavour, my efforts met with less success. My critique group rightly ripped my stories apart, but I persevered and managed to get a few shorter pieces published to begin with.

In the years since, I find myself equally divided between fiction and creative nonfiction. Some days I pick up my laptop determined to write a short story but it doesn’t flow and a nonfiction piece comes quite easily instead. On other days when I begin an essay, the muse doesn’t cooperate and prods me towards a short story instead.

I’m at the stage now where I go with the flow. Earlier I used to stress about it, mistakenly believing that I should stick to one and master it rather than dabble in different genres and fail spectacularly in all of them.

However, when I researched this problem a little, I found that most writing websites advising trying genres to test one’s mettle and also one’s interest. I have not found myself gravitating to any one particular field yet. Even within fiction, I write a mix of YA, contemporary realist, speculative and magical realism stories.

To add to this heady mix of fiction and creative nonfiction is poetry. I find it tough to write poetry, even though I have had poems published but those are more on the humorous side. My muse often pushes me towards poetry as well. I have written a few serious poems but so far I haven’t tried to get them published, convinced as I am that they are spectacularly poor and don’t deserve publication. However I haven’t got them critiqued either. Poetry is something I plan to tackle later, when I have wrapped up penning the stories and essays that I have already ideated first.

A number of classic novelists were excellent essayists as well. You can read them on Project Gutenberg, like this collection by George Eliot.

A few of my writer friends do attempt to write both, but some are devoted to one particular form of writing – say science fiction or perhaps children’s stories, or even journalistic pieces that involve research and reporting. I admire and envy their single-minded focus, considering my writing is nowadays all over the place.

But after years of experimenting with different types of writing, I realized my attempts would never go to waste. I count all of it towards practice.

And as the old adage goes which we learnt when we were children, practice makes perfect.

At least, that’s what I have pinned my hopes on.

What is your favourite genre of writing? Do you feel moved to experiment in different modes of writing as well? Do let me know in the comments below!

The Prodigal Daughter

I am thrilled to report that my story The Prodigal Daughter was published in Reedsy as a winner of their previous week’s writing prompt. Do take a look and like/share/comment on it!

If you haven’t come across Reedsy before, I highly recommend you subscribe to their writing prompts. They offer editorial consultation and they also host a variety of free courses. I took the course for YA novels and writing short stories, both of which I found extremely useful.

What’s happening on the writing front for you?

The Legacy of Jane Austen, and a New Story Publication!

I’m happy to post that my story Perils in the Post has found a wonderful home in The Ilanot Review in their Letters-themed issue. The Ilanot Review is an excellent literary journal from Israel! Do hop over and take a look.

In other exciting news, 18th July this year marked the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. How fitting that my essay on Jane Austen was accepted just days ago, for an anthology by Ben Bulben Books. The piece, which I drafted over a week, captures my love for this great author and her delightful work. I would love to share a link to the anthology when it comes out.

Though I’ve read all her books, my favourite works of Jane Austen are the usual culprits: Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. My next favourite after these two would be Emma, followed by Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. I haven’t read Lady Susan yet but as it was her first novel she wrote, the general consensus is that it differs from her later work.

As a Jane-ite, I am not enamoured of all the variations on her work that have flooded the marketplace in the past few years. I’ve read only a few of them, but haven’t had the stomach to read any more. Here are a few that I’ve read: 

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

Pride and Prejudice strides into the mystery genre courtesy the late great P.D. James and what an entry it is! I loved this book and would wholeheartedly recommend it.

Austenland by Shannon Hale

This was quite successful but I didn’t enjoy it much. It spawned a movie version as well, and I tried watching it in an attempt to help reading the book, but that did not work either. It’s just one of those where my taste apparently doesn’t mesh with the general reading public. 

Prada & Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

I read this years ago and though my memory of it is vague, I remember enjoying the read. She incorporates dialogues from the original text as well.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith, and others in a similar vein

Pure blasphemy in my humble opinion, but that’s just me. The book was quite popular and well-appreciated, though I am sure it literally left JA turning in her grave.

This is only a sampling and there are many more, but I don’t want to tarnish the image of the original in my mind by reading derivative works. Perhaps at a later stage, I might grow a taste for it, but not now.

What’s your favourite Jane Austen novel?

 

Mini-Update

I have been light on writing-related work this year. No Short Story Challenge, and definitely no other brand new work. I’ve spent most of my available free time on editing and whipping older pieces into shape. Per my records, I have about 28 of these essays and short stories that I need to whittle and carve to perfection, or at least start submitting them if I find I cannot revise and edit them any more.

Despite that I have a couple of acceptances to report. One was my short story targeted for a YA audience, titled Miss Quit which found a home in the lit mag Youth Imagination. I wrote this as part of the Short Story Challenge 2014, and it had been simmering ever since. When I did finally send it out I got a fairly quick acceptance.

The second was my article for writers, titled The Maturation of a Writer at Walrus Publishing. I wrote this last year on the spur of the moment one day, while reflecting on the differences I felt as a more experienced writer now compared to when I had started out.

Do read them and tell me what you think! Feel free to post links to your own recently published work in the comments below!