Archive for August, 2008

There are a few basic polishing tools one should use while re-writing. Why rewriting? Well, for one, while you’re writing your first draft you should just be concentrating on getting your story out. Donning the editor’s hat comes later. If you try to do both simultaneously, you’ll get nowhere.

And it is here that your computer, either the basic word-processing software or your rewriting software, can be of immense help. Here’s what I do.

After I’ve written my story, rewritten it to take care of the language and loopholes, I rewrite it once more to polish it.

  • 1. The first thing I do is look for places where I have begun two consecutive sentences or two consecutive paragraphs the same way. Usually this happens with the word ‘then’ or ‘next’.
  •  2. I do a find and search thing for exclamation marks. If there are many exclamation marks in any one particular sentence, I try to do away with all but one. 

For instance, if I’ve written: Aha! So my investment really paid off! I knew it!, I retain the one after Aha and remove the others. In the beginning I felt that by using exclamation marks I was being emphatic where i should have been emphatic. Wrong. I was being distracting.

  • 3  Next I use the search and find tool to spot adjectives and adverbs ending with ‘ly’ and see if I can do away with the ‘ly.’ If my search throws up phrase like there was this hugely popular, I remove hugely. Hey, popular is popular. And then if I’ve written, “I don’t need to resort to that!” she replied indignantly, I replace it with, She looked indignant.I don’t need to resort to that!she said. In this instance you can even do away with she said.

This is not always possible. For instance, if I’ve written, “Something about some distant cousin,” she said absently, I can’t very well write She looked absent. “Something about some distant cousin,” she said, can I? However, what I could use is, she looked like she was not altogether there or she looked distracted.

The upshot is that, don’t try too hard. Write whatever comes easily, else it will look forced.

 More on this tomorrow.

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“The Chinese are a communal people,” someone said to me the other day in context of the Beijing Olympics.

I was confused. Communal? Had I missed something about a religious genocide perpretrated by China? So I clarified, “Surely you mean communist? They are communists.”  

This person waves his hand dismissively. “Communal, communist, same thing. You know what I mean.”

“I didn’t. And that’s why I had to clarify,” I replied.

“You writers are all the same. Nitpicking on words, on grammar.”

That got my goat for two reasons. One, that people are too lazy to learn to communicate well and when rebuked, gently mind you, assume an air of disdain and exclaim writers! Good, effective communication is the not the sole purview of writers. And two, I DO NOT NITPICK. But that’s beside the point.

But taking up the first grouse, I wonder why people think language is not important. Even in school, which were the courses that were considered important for our future and which were the ones that were considered irksome?

Remember the groaning “Oh God, why I have to study English?” Sure, we all groaned the same way about math and science also. But there was a difference. There we meant “Oh God! I’m not prepared enough.” Or “Omigod! I’m going to fail and the spend the rest of my life as an auto mechanic,” whereas in the case of language we meant, “Oh God, why do I have to waste my time studying active and passive verbs when I could be studying math and avoiding that very future?”

Language falls under the purview of art. And you know what the popular perception about art is. It’s good if you have a talent for it but not the end of the world if you don’t.

I say, the exact converse is true. When I was in college pursuing a graduate degree in economics, one of our teachers told us, “Learn language first. If you are not articulate, you can be the best economist but it won’t matter because you will not be able to put your ideas across.”

A word of advice I’ve never forgotten.

Here’s an interesting article I came across on the subject. You might want to give it a peek.

PS: I don’t agree with arts not being important either. Sure science and math are the building blocks of a hunger-free, disease-free world. But what good is a developed, modern world if there is no music, no theatre, no literature to beautify it?

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I’ve been getting a lot of hate mail and hate comments. You don’t see them because, of course, I don’t approve them.

I don’t understand this. I mean, I can understand it if your rant is against the book, because you’ve paid good money for it (assuming of, course, that you’ve bought it and not borrowed/pinched it). So if you’re feeling cheated, rave on. (Although, even there I’d feel better if the comments were constructive and not pure venom.)

But rants against the blog? Which is free? How demanding are we getting? I understand that your time is limited and if devote an ‘x’ number of seconds to a site, that is ‘x’ seconds less for something else that you may consider more worthwhile.

But, seriously, grow up. If you don’t like something, move on. That’s what I do. A couple of seconds of skimming tells me whether I want to spend more time on that particular site or not. I don’t crib about having wasted my time by visiting a particular site and then, contrarily, spend more time in leaving a hate comment.

At first I got a bit upset because I had made it very clear from the very beginning that:

  • A) There’s only so much gyaan you can impart on the craft of writing. As the end of the day you have to do the writing.
  • B) I use my blog as my morning pages as well. So there will be days when I’m not dropping pearls of wisdom.

But then I realised that this was their way, albeit a convoluted one, to get me to visit their blogs. There’s nothing quite like a little rant to get noticed, is there? Perhaps, something to keep in mind about when you’re writing your bestseller?

Here’s one I got on the book today. Well, it’s not on the book per se.

This guy wrote: Hi, I’m a fan of your book. Keep up the good work.

To which I replied: Thank you so much. One does aim to please

To which he replied: Hmmm, you sound rude and arrogant.

I give up!

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O Grammar, Where Art Thou?

Aspiring writers send me all sorts of stuff to read through. Here’s one from a writer who felt that what he had written was good.

“I didn’t knew if I could trust him. He was an addict and a liar and, though he assures me he wasn’t using again, his constricted pupils told me otherwise.”

And then he wonders why his work is rejected time and again?

This sentence can be used as dialogue if you have a character who speaks like that. But as a part of the main narrative, it’s a strict no-no.

It’s not enough that you have a gripping story. If your manuscript if full of such basic grammatical errors, no editor is going to approve it. Who wants to sift through reams and reams full of such errors?

Let’s face it, if you want to be a published writer, one of the most essential things is to write correct English. Good English is desirable but correct English is more important. You can’t say stuff like, “I wants to be a writer” and hope to be taken seriously. Or misspell words like ardourous. It’s either arduous or ardent. Decide which. What is it that you want to say – difficult or passionate?

Your sentence construction, vocabulary and spelling have to be solid. I found this list on the web and found it hilarious. As a test, check it out. If you can find out what’s funny about it, you’re on your way to becoming a writer.

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I had a massive scare yesterday. My computer refused to boot. This was disastrous. Like, on a scale of 1-10, it was a catastrophic 8. ‘Cos like all lazy creatures I hadn’t made a back up.

Everything was fine till about ten days ago. And then this ominous message about some Trojan horse started flashing on the screen. Pretty soon my pretty wall paper was gone, replaced by an ugly electric blue screen with an uglier yellow strip across it sporting an insidious, “Spyware detected on your computer.” I wasn’t wild about it. My Van Gogh replaced with this?

The message also suggested that I install and antivirus to get rid of the digital equine creature. I thought that was strange ‘cos I had some pretty kickass McAfee stuff, plus some AVG protection. Admittedly, the AVG 7.5 was a little antiquated and had been warning me about its imminent expiry for some time. I, of course, did little else about it other than murmur a something to the effect of ‘rest in peace.’ Come to think of it, AVG’s expiry coincided with the appearance of the Trojan horse. Am I being totally paranoiac, or is there a connection?

I would have done nothing about it, except the message about the Trojan horse irritatingly kept popping up every 20 seconds or so. So yesterday, when I read about AVG 8 freeware in the papers, I decided to download and install it. Only, once I installed the software, my computer refused to boot!  Apparently Grisoft aren’t joking when they claim that AVG 8 is the securest anti-virus software. The software is so secure it refuses even the owner entry into the computer.

Anyway, after an anxious half hour, I restarted the comp in safe mode and uninstalled AVG 8. I can once again boot my comp normally but the problem about spyware and the Trojan horse persists. Any solutions?

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Yipee! It’s finally happened. You can now buy Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions from Amazon.

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Today is just one of those days. I had a feeling as soon as I got up that it was going to be one of those days. First, I overslept and didn’t get up at five as I had planned to and lost out on a good three hours of uninterrupted writing. And two, my body is killing me. I tried one of those fancy workouts yesterday. I decided that running was not posing much of a challenge and that I needed to push my body some more. So I went in for one of those high-intensity free weights workouts yesterday. And it was fun. Yesterday. Today it’s just a pain in the ass.

My friends find it strange that I have to keep working out more at higher intensities to get the same amount of benefit. For those of you who think the same, read up a bit on peaks and plateaux. Physiological, not geographical.

As one of my friends, a dyed-in-the-wool couch potato, says, “Let me get this right. You start running and lose a bit of weight. Then you stop losing weight because your body has gotten used to that exercise. So, to lose more weight, you have to either run more, for which you don’t have the time, or do a different, higher intensity workout. And you have to keep doing this? I think I’ll stick to my sedentary lifestyle, thank you very much. I mean if I’m still not going to lose all that much weight, why work out at all?”

Hmmm, when you put it that way, it does kinda make it a little bit like running harder to stay in the same place.

Talking of rat races, a thought just occured to me. I chose this lifestyle because I wanted a quality life where I was free for pursue my hobbies and interests. But have I done that? (Hint: the correct answer is no).  I haven’t been mountaineering in two years. Or scuba diving. And it doesn’t seem likely that I will manage it this year either.

I could have, after I’d written Kkrishnaa, but then preproduction took precedence and then the publicity broke. And now there’s pressure on me to finish my second book. And then I have to start work on the Kkrishnaa sequel. And then I have to work on the publicity for the second book.

And I thought I jumped off the treadmill years ago.

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Even before we begin writing a show or a movie, we do a lot of prelim writing work in churning out what is called the ‘show bible’. It contains the detailed concept, character sketches and the story.  In some cases it even contains the budget, casting options and options for various talent – director, cameraman, stylist, set designer.

It is blueprint of the show and on which our screenplays are based. I have already covered some aspects of a TV show in some of my earlier posts.

What I haven’t covered is how we develop characters. Contrary to what people think, a lot of work goes into developing engaging, believable and quirky characters. It involves answering a lot of questions in as much detail as possible. Good character biographies can run into thirty page or more.

There are many formats available on the net, but here’s one:


*Political views
*Marital status
*Social status


*Men or Female
*Physical Build
*Defects (scars, or limps)


*Fears (Do not create cheap Freudian back story as motivation for your characters. For example, “she was once sexually abused by her stepfather and so hates all men.” People are more complex than this. If such a traumatic event happened in her life, if anything, it would make her promiscuous. She may hate sex, fear men, but hate men? Do some research for plausible cause-effect scenarios.)


You can of course, embellish it with more details, for example, what clothing does your character favour? Or what motto defines her world view, i.e., “A successful person is one who can fake sincerity.” Does she have a nickname? Does she like it? Hate it?

All the detail you create may or may not be revealed during the story, but it doesn’t mean that it’s work that’s been wasted. The more detail you create, the deeper you can make your character, and this rich history will be such a rich source of information that it may even change and evolve your story itself.

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Some time ago, the Hindutan Times had carried a story, Bubble Trouble, on how the great Indian Soap Factory works. For all of you who are interetsed in writing for television, or are even remotely curious about it, do check it out.

The story gives various POVs – the channel’s, the producer’s, the writer’s. For the latter bit, they contacted me for my inputs, which in itself is reason enough to read it. Kidding. 🙂

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The way to write good situational comedy it is to have quirky characters and then add as much conflict as you can from the beginning. Do not try to write funny. That’s the worst thing writers can do. They end spending too much time and energy trying to come with funny one-liners which only seem forced. Instead what they should do is set up the premise, i.e., what the protagonist wants, and then try to create as many obstacles in his/her way. This will create conflict and automatically give rise to situations that are funny.

The reason Indian comedies don’t work is because very often a) they don’t have solid well-rounded characters off whose personality traits you can play off b) they don’t have a premise which has potential for enough conflict. Or, even if they have a premise they don’t work hard enough on the story to sustain it for two hours. Then they end up writing in situations that seem forced and gags which are dependent on exaggerated physical quirks and stupid, scatological humour.

Take Singh is Kinng. The premise was good enough. A good-natured, well-meaning country bumpkin becomes a big don. That’s it. And then what do they do? They mess it up by bringing in a stupid love angle which is not strong enough to hold the movie together for two hours.

Instead what would have worked better as a main plot would have been Happy Singh trying to fit into Lucky Singh’s shoes and trying to be the menacing don who strikes fear in everyone’s heart. The love angle would’ve worked better as a side plot. You know, something to add to the already chaotic situation.

But we all know, that it ain’t gonna happen. Just today I read in the papers that the producers are looking for a story for a sequel. Brace yourselves, you’re in for another attack of Sing is Kinng.

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