I have talked about it everywhere, but not here. Today, I think I will reserve this short post to introducing my new book to all of you although this website is brimming with stuffs about it.
When I began writing The Storyteller, I definitely dreamed of publishing it. I began writing this book way back in 2015, when my daughter was a baby. But I was clueless about how it should go forth, even though I knew the epilogue. All I knew was it was a story I wanted to tell. I stopped writing this book several times, began other projects many times, but this was the one destined to be completed.
Once my debut novel Sandcastles got a publishing deal, I pulled out this file and my mentor told me, "It falls flat. It reads boring. Rewrite it." I was hurt at first, because he had loved it earlier. But, nevertheless, I began revising it and slaying. Rewriting the 50K words that were down in that draft. I was left with about 30K words. And then, I resumed writing the rest.
This journey from draft to book has not been breezy either. It took me 11 rounds, of course with ample amount of weeding by my friend, editor and mentor, Dr. Varghese C. Abraham, who worked with me on Sandcastles as well. And this book materialized.
Now, there are just a couple weeks between the printed book and me. But none between the kindle edition and you! Yep, go grab it from your Amazon Kindle store and start reading it today! It is also available for FREE on Kindle Unlimited (KUL).
Now that that's out of the way, Cheers!
Everyone stay safe and sane. Love, Sana
The first month of 2020 has bid goodbye already and we are halfway into the second. How are your reading and writing goals holding up? Hope you all are finding time to read and write.
In the previous post, I talked about Self-Doubt and Self-Confidence was covered in the post before that. My article on writing with self-confidence has been rewritten and accepted into a publication ‘The Writing Cooperative’ on Medium platform and was published on February 4th, 2020 (Tuesday).
Writers, do check out this platform at medium.com – it’s a great place to read other writers and write your own pieces. I am in love with that place and have been writing voraciously there. You also have the option to choose to be paid as per the time readers spend on your articles by being a member in their Partner Program. You can publish your poetry, stories or any kind of articles there.
So, now on to our third part of The Primer series.
Many writers ask me, “How do you manage everything?” meaning the multiple roles I undertake in a day. I am also a physician working the evenings and two mornings in a week. I do not have a weekend, just Sundays. I have a 5 year old daughter, demanding but I believe she is accommodating of me, too. I live with my in-laws who are lovely people and allow me to be.
But still, when you ask me how I manage, my first answer is:
I don’t. I am all over the place most of the time. I do not manage things at all. But somehow, I get things done. I am far from punctual. The only thing I do on time is to be on time for kid’s school bus.
The time on the clock is 24 hours for all of us. Yet, some people do more than others. I am not the right person to talk about time-management – not yet. But most of the ‘not-getting-done’ in our lives is because of wrong prioritization and wrong zones.
Writers have to introspect, brainstorm and do some serious thinking to do their craft. Some people have learned to write in any kind of environment – I used to write in classrooms when the lectures were going on and now I have to write through the preschooler din. Some need a quiet space, a room of one’s own (preferably without doors). This is entirely up to you although I believe it is best not to get too stringent about having a space. There is nothing human brain cannot get used to.
Dissociation and Compartmentalization
The terms don’t have to scare you. It is pretty simple.
Writers are many people in one person – you all know that by now and have experienced that state of mind if you have dreamed of writing stories. It is not easy to conform and be silent when life situations are not exactly how you want them to be. But, we are humans. We are social animals and live in communities. We have families and friends. Few live in isolation. We have day jobs – very few are into writing full time.
So, when you experience dichotomy, when your heart is split between your passion and responsibility, what do you do? When you want to write when you have to be at a family event, when you have to do an errand for someone you love when you would rather sit in your room and type away, when someone expects you to put off writing for something they prioritize, how do you go about it?
I swear by the technique of dissociation and compartmentalization.
In this post, I will elaborate on Dissociation.
"Writers are many people in one person – you all know that by now and have experienced that state of mind if you have dreamed of writing stories."
Dissociation is simply the act of separating. For a writer in the midst of a normal social life, it is crucial to separate your day-to-day life and writing. It is great if you can manage both without dissociation, but most people can’t.
Dissociation, in my experience, allows you to handle emotions and reactions separately. Writers are in general very sensitive and emotive people. This could undermine their personal life. If you drag your emotional baggage pertaining to your writer persona to your personal life, there is going to be unrest and lots of misunderstanding with whoever comes in contact with you. Further, a divided state of mind stumped with confusion is really not a blissful situation.
The best part is, this is all in the mind. No hoodwinking there. You simply decide to have two sides to yourself. And keep those two lives apart. The experiences, observations and perspectives can overlap because the writer in you will need to know what you go through. But the passions and actions can and will have to be kept separately. Dissociation also helps you to deal with guilt if you were to disappoint anybody with regard to mundane social activities and societal expectations, which you are bound to if you are serious about writing. ;)
"If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.” - Stephen King
There are a few ways to dissociate. Let’s list them out.
1. A pseudonym
Having a pen name (pseudonym) grants you a different name and some personal space needed to be that person. When you assume a name for the writer in you, you are giving him or her, a whole new personality with all its good and not so good aspects. It also helps you to channel your writer persona’s public life away from your personal life. A complicated person such as a writer might experience complicated situations and relationships at some point. A pseudonym lets you have an alter ego that can deal with those complications outside your personal life.
Also, when you are writing, you can slip into it effortlessly and remind yourself to stay focused. The pathological diagnosis of dissociative identity does not let you be in control. A voluntary dissociation helps you take your writing seriously and save your precious time. When you are in your writing persona, you do not have to heed about what your real life limitations are, at least mentally. Yet, you can maintain a certain amount of transparency.
Take care not to overlap the two which brings us to the importance of the next method. The slightly uncomfortable truth when using a pseudonym is, your writing will belong to that name and not to your actual self, which might be a total no for many writers.
"A voluntary dissociation helps you take your writing seriously and save your precious time. When you are in your writing persona, you do not have to heed about what your real life limitations are, at least mentally."
2. Dissociation by time
This is easier and more acceptable to those who are not so keen about attributing all your written work to an alter ego and if you are too proud of crediting it to a strange name.
Dissociate your time instead of your personality. Set aside a time exclusively for writing, preferably first thing in the morning. That way, you will not be immersed in guilt throughout the day that you did not write. Having fixed time periods throughout the day during which you will not attend to anything else helps you go forward with your writing projects.
Make sure your family and friends are aware of this time. It can also contribute to them taking your writing seriously, which solves a lot of dilemma and disillusionment.
"Set aside a time exclusively for writing, preferably first thing in the morning. That way, you will not be immersed in guilt throughout the day that you did not write."
3. Dissociation by space
Every job has a job space – an office or a particular field. Writing should, too. If you are someone who can write from anywhere and everywhere like me, you are doing great. I can squeeze in some writing time even on my phone while I am doing laundry or brainstorm when doing dishes or when traveling. But if you are someone with stringent requirements for brainstorming, it is likely that you will wait for the perfect moment and place to write. It can be a tad bit difficult to get things done in that case. But you can have an office.
Be protective of your time and space if you cannot function anywhere and anytime. Convert your table to a workplace. Pick up some habits that will program your brain into associating with your workplace and start writing. Don’t let other things clutter your space. Some writers convert their outhouses or attics or unused rooms to a writing space. Decorate it with motivating and uplifting things like potted plants, flowers, art and necessities like sticky notes, planners, journals, stationary and snacks.
"Be protective of your time and space if you cannot function anywhere and anytime."
To wind up...
This art of living as a writer will be complete only after talking about compartmentalization, too. I will try to bring it on sooner.
These are my findings as a writer. Feel free to share yours, too. :)
Until we meet again!
Love and Peace,
So what have you been upto since New Year? I have been reading and trying to stick to my reading goals. Last year, I had barely pushed myself to overcome the reading slump. But this year, I am going to seriously do it. Because a writer must read, although those days of reading carefree, in abandon, are long gone.
I finished two books in 2020, both of which I had reviewed on Instagram and my Facebook Page. The first one is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. The other, which I completed two days ago, is When I Hit You or The Portrait of the Writer as A Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy. And I am glad I read them both.
I am not gonna drag for today’s post. The previous post on Self Confidence was long since it had the introductory part, too. If you are new here, do sign up on the blog by submitting your email in the subscribe column in the sidebar on your right. And checkout the previous post Writing Your Novel – The Primer – Part 1 if you have not read it, because you are going to need continuity for the topic.
So, the second ingredient in The Primer – Self-Doubt.
What is self-doubt? I don’t intend to define it in formal terms. It is easier to clarify it through the monologues every writer has had at some point of time.
The scenarios go like this, to bring up a few:
This quote has been wrongly attributed to Aristotle and most of the images you will find on the Internet with this quote will have Aristotle credited for it. But anyway, it is so deep and meaningful. There's one way to avoid criticism as a writer - to not write. And that is not an option for you, is it? :)
If none of the above are reasons for getting stuck, close that file or put away that manuscript. Take a book to read. Go on a trip. Bake something. Give yourself some edible treat. And watch movies – yes, it is such a great way to exercise your imagination, to bring out storytelling. Do another creative hobby if there is anything else you are good at. I paint when I’m brain-fagged, it helps immensely to unwind.
Some people have tons of stories in their head, and they ask me: “How do we begin?”
My answer is: Try writing.
Did you just think: “That’s a dumb answer that escapes the actual question.”?
I know. Only that it is not. Because, before writing the story in your mind, you have to find a few things about yourself, like:
And these questions can be answered only if you “Try Writing.”
So, wrapping it up on self-doubt with a note on it:
Self-doubt is a tricky thing. Like salt is in a curry. Like self-confidence is – on the other side of the coin. Too much self-doubt will barricade your very essence as a writer – your writing will never see the world and vice versa. No self-doubt will lead to over-confidence, which is pretty suicidal too. Because, you will not be able to improve or judge your own writing, which is a dangerous state to be in.
Self-doubt is nourishing in little quantities. In healthy portions, it makes you:
When Self-Doubt tells you: “You are not perfect and you will make mistakes, you are not good enough.”, flip the coin and let Self-Confidence come up and tell you: “You are human, you are bound to make mistakes and you are not perfect in everything, but that’s okay. If you are not good enough, practicing will make you better and that is enough as long as you keep striving.” Apply this balance throughout your doubts and you are good to go.
So what are other instances of self-doubt in you as a writer? What monologues other than the ones I have listed do you hear from yourself everyday? How do you fight self-doubt and how do you balance it? Let me know. :)
Love and Peace, Sana
Reading now: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Winner of Pulitzer Prize for fiction 2015)
Happy New Year!
Hope your Christmas holidays went well and that you are all looking forward to a 2020 with fresh hope and realistic and practical resolutions. As promised, although not as early, I’m here to begin talking about how to begin writing your novel.
Oftentimes, I get messages from aspiring writers telling me that they have an idea for a book, a story to tell, a novel to write, but have no idea where to begin or how. This is, I suppose, a dilemma every writer faces when he or she embarks on their journey to authorship. Your concern is genuine and real. It is not easy to begin. You will have a hundred little ideas of how to begin your book but sometimes, when you are confronted by the blank page, your mind and muse black out on you.
So today, let’s put a primer to the canvas of the writing journey.
My humble disclaimer: This series is not a step by step tutorial on how to start writing your book. This is a sort of breaking down the art for you as an author, so that you know the inside dynamics of the writing process from an author’s perspective, seasoned with what has worked for me (which may or may not work for you), and paving a path to kick-starting your work.
This post will tell you what the primer to writing a book constitutes. It has nothing to do with the story in your dreams, nor with writing techniques – we are not there yet.
But it has everything to do with you – as a creative person and as a writer. So here we go!
There are 4 components required to prime your mind with, mixed in a balanced quantity, to be able to take up, stick to and see the finishing line of the process called ‘Writing A Novel’. They are:
Today, I will elaborate on the first in the list – Self Confidence.
Nothing worth your time and effort can be done without self-confidence. This goes for every field of work. If you are not going to believe that you can do it, you are not going to do it. A very simple derivation. And in the field of art, the importance surpasses any other, because art is simply not something a degree or doctorate will equip you for. Writing is entirely an inside process before it is displayed. Without self-confidence, you are going to have a hard time trying to write, despite having a hundred wonderful ideas.
So how do you know that you lack confidence? Let me break the symptoms down for you.
Chances are you might relate to one of the above groups, although this is not the end of the list. There is another group of people who are talented and confident but lazy to take the ordeal of writing a book – this post is not for them, because to write, you definitely have to sign up for hard work. It is nothing less than hard work, but something worth the sweat and the persistence.
So, back to self-confidence: how do you nail it? How do you wade through the swamp called ‘lack of self-confidence’?
Some are born and grown confident. Some are naturally smart and self-confidence is just second nature to them. When I look back to the days when I had just begun writing books – which would be at the age of 14, when I wrote my first novel, obviously dumb and cheesy, and cringe-worthy – I have to admit that I did not lack confidence. I wanted to be an author right from that age. But that confidence stemmed from not knowing enough, as I realized later. Which is why I am eligible to talk about nailing confidence now. Someone who has not gone through a lack of confidence at some point cannot talk about it. And I have been there later.
Technically, in creativity, self-confidence is undermined by self-doubt about which we will talk in the next post. It is a no-brainer that self-confidence and self-doubt are inversely proportional. And the idea is to strike a balance between the two.
But these are immeasurable stuffs. I hear you. How are immeasurable things measured or balanced? The equation allows you to do it. Inversely proportional variables move in opposite directions, in terms of quantity. So if you boost your self-confidence, self-doubt gradually depletes. Or if you work on reducing self-doubt, self-confidence will grow and branch out.
Self-doubt needs a whole new post for itself. So, here are a few tips to boost your self-confidence.
There would be more, if I ponder, but I have wound up the tips here for now because it had gone long already. Feel free to add to it.
What are your ideas on developing self-confidence?
Last year, I made the resolution to complete my second novel and finish editing it and I successfully did. And began Book #3. This year, I resolve to write Book #3 and delve into more serious reading.
What are your writing and reading resolutions for 2020? Share below in comments.
Wishing you all a prosperous New Year 2020!
Love and Peace,
Read Sandcastles yet? If yes, why not drop your review on Amazon so that others know about it? If not, choose from the Kindle edition or paperback.
Learning is a continuous process. We keep absorbing information, facts, implications and experiences as we move through our day to day life. Besides all those textbooks and classes we have taken, there's a parallel course of learning that we are seldom aware of - life lessons, observations and experiences. This is the learning process that carves depth into you as a person. We all got them, haven't we?
However, some of us are acutely aware of this footpath learning. We pay attention to the minor details, feelings and reactions from us and the world around us. If you are capable of observing the underlying dynamics of something common and finding the fascinating undercurrents in them, chances are you are artists of some kind. You are capable of converting the everyday mundane things into imagery worth enjoying.
I am not qualified to speak on behalf of any other art/creative pursuit whatsoever. But I deem myself ready to talk about writing. Writing based on true events and experiences is quite a trend nowadays. But I believe, a writer’s true potential lies in writing about things he has not experienced first-hand. Imagination is quite underestimated but those who really know art knows the importance of imagination.
What many people fail to understand is that imagination is indeed shaped from experiences and observations. So here I have come up with a few ways to convert life lessons, observations and experiences into words that can be enjoyed. Of course, the fillers will be imagination and that’s why we need to talk about the how-to and what-all.
1. Keep a writer's journal
It can be a notebook or a diary. Or it can be a note-making app or voice recorder, or a file on your computer. I use a couple of apps like Jotterpad and Gnotes on my phone to keep notes as they are handy and compact. If you enjoy actually penning down stuffs, do that though.
Jotterpad on Android is a great free note-making app which can be synced to your Google Drive. So when I note down my ideas, the next time I sit down to write, I can pull those text files open on my laptop. It's a great way to write on the go. Similarly, Gnotes is a note-making app in which you can register and sign in through the browser on your computer. Either way, what you note down when the muse strikes will be saved there for later.
2. Observe in Third Person
Whenever you are out simply walking or heading somewhere and your brain is not engaged with any other priorities, try running a narrative of what you see around you, and yourself, in third person. This is a simple storytelling technique I used to do while I travelled or crossed the street.
The idea is to convert an experience as simple as being outside on the street, fetching grocery or crossing the road into words. This is an exercise of narration that I have found useful when I sit down to write. Doing this enables you to convert experiences and actions into narratives. And of course, have fun, tweak with interesting expressions and if you want to, write them down. There is a great possibility of coming across something insightful as you adapt the surroundings and the imagination into words.
I am not a fan of gossips and hearsay and not fond of propagating them. But once in a while, eavesdrop. Listen in on conversations. Not to poke your nose into other people's business - nope, that is not acceptable - but, to get a hang of people around you, the world and its problems. Listening in on people around you is a good way to develop your folder of conflicts. Potential story conflicts can unravel from random conversations you heard in passing.
4. Work on Empathy
Empathy is what makes sympathy and kindness possible. This world is wrought with unpleasant news and moments every day. A lot of people are in trouble. A true writer is disturbed by the troubles around him or her. Writers are generally responsive and quite reactive. And this turmoil in our mind can be addressed with words. So work on boosting your empathy.
Be ready to understand others. Be ready to put yourself in their shoes. In writing, you are going to have to do that a lot, because our own life and situations are very limiting to write more than a couple of books, if any. Stories are derived from the world around us and they may or may not include us. But what makes it our experience is empathy.
Empathize with those who are hurting and having a tough time. Empathize with characters from the books you read. Analyze the emotions behind suffering. Every good story has some amount of pathos. And to experience another person's pleasure and pain is indispensable to a writer because we are hundreds, if not thousands, of persons melded into one.
5. Reproduce an event or observation in words, objectively and subjectively
A huge part of a writer’s job is contributing one’s own thoughts, observations and experiences to his or her characters. Use your different points of view to construct different characters. Put them in strife that you have only heard of or come across when you were listening in and then give them solutions that you would make if you were in their place. Sew in your beliefs and understandings into fictitious worlds when you develop a plot.
Recreate a situation you came across or heard of, objectively and subjectively. This writing exercise helps you build narrative skills. Write about someone you met on the bus or train, describe their attributes that piqued your attention. Develop a dialogue from a short conversation you had or overheard.
The more you look around and put into words, the easier writing becomes. Process what you experience into words. When you read books, write reviews to delve into them deeper. Reading is an exercise and experience in itself. You learn the craft while you experience the story and imagine the events in your mind. And talking about it in writing is an introspective and exploratory activity.
To Wind Up
This is a topic that can at once be written endlessly and yet be stopped, leaving the rest to your exploration.
What are your thoughts on writing based on real life experiences and true events and writing that is extracted from the world through imagination?
As a reader, what do you prefer to read - real life stories or fiction?
Which do you think is more difficult? Are true life experiences necessary to write fiction?
Let me know in comments. Adieu until the next blog post!
Today, Sandcastles turned one. And it is sometimes appalling how fast time flies. There is a giveaway contest running on Instagram on the occasion until next weekend, ending on December 7th, 2019.
I created this anniversary trailer today and gave a voice-over for the first time in my life. To be honest, I am very shy when it comes to speaking or facing a camera. So, have not ventured to youtube or IGTV yet. But when I tested this today, for a moment, I felt like, wth, just do it. Go put it out there and there it is! Lol.
So, if you haven't grabbed a copy of Sandcastles yet, take it from me - I may not write like that again. It is my debut work, but there is a compelling passion stitched into its words and pages, when I wrote that book. Those people I lived with for years and some days, I miss them so badly. Even as I wrote my second novel and began the third, I miss being with Selena, Ria, Trisha, Neil and Vincent. I miss those characters who dwelt in me and lived through my fingertips so much like they are family. I miss the Sana who wrote that book as well because these days, my writing and thought process are very different from those days. My themes of interest too have undergone some change although it will always have something to do with childhood, growing up, love, traumas, family and mental health.
My writing rants aside, I have decided to do something through my blog. I get several questions from aspiring writers about writing, mostly about how-to's of which I can only speak from my experience, and much about publishing as well. And it is becoming difficult for me to answer them individually because these topics are unarguably wide.
So now on, each blog post will have something that will help you forward in your journey as a writer - lessons learned, tried and tested tips that work and writing motivation in general. I will also share links to useful articles that have helped me and guided me along the path over the years.
Hence, The Writeous Way shall become true to its name, Insha Allah. :) Are you game?
Of course I will rant at times. But I will do this, too.
So, peeps, what are you reading now? What is you favourite genre? And what do you want to know about writing? Leave your answers in the comments so that I address them in the next post.
Reading Now: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
So until next time, Adieu!
Summer has rolled in all of a sudden here in Kerala, erasing the wintry chill without a trace. Even the night air is warm and the days are burning sunny. At times, cool breezes blow in and one such breeze held this awesome news that an author can only sometimes dream of!!!
Sandcastles was published on November 30th, 2018 - just eligible by hairline luck to be submitted for participation in ARL Literary Award 2018 - a new award launched in 2018 for various categories like Best Author, Best Debut Author, Best Poet, Most Popular Book, Most Influential author etc for books published between January 2016 and November 2018. Sandcastles being a debut novel, I submitted it under Best Debut Author Category and Best Author Category, to test myself. Well, guess what?
Sandcastles has secured a place in the ARL Literary Award 2018 for Best Author Longlist announced on February 10th, 2019!!!
Can you believe it? Sometimes I can't but maybe, you should check out the book for yourself and decide. ;)
I will be back soon - as soon as possible, that is - with some points on writing. Day before yesterday, I had an interactive session to talk about my journey to Sandcastles in the monthly meet up of The Wordsmiths Club in Calicut. In the quaint seaside Bokchoy Beach Cafe, overlooking the Calicut beach, it was a warm gathering of word lovers. However, time
constraints made me skip elaborating on writing techniques and much more.
So, soon I will be doing a few posts on what I think can push you into writing better, writing regularly and effectively. Let's see how it can fare. Yeah?
Reading Now: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Writing Now: The Storyteller
So long! Have a great week !
A blog on the art of writing and life as a writer.