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Apropos my post about authors’ contribution in promoting their books, one of my readers has a peculiar problem. And that is that in spite of doing everything to promote/raise awareness about his book there is little movement on sales.

Another reader, Dr Arun Kumar, posted a comment in response which basically said:

“In the field of literature, mode and role of publicity is limited. If your creation is interesting and meaningful it will get response sooner or later. When there were no means of publicity, great literature was created by unknown persons and the society noticed it. It will be fruitful to send books to critics and editors of the literary pages.”

While in most parts I agree with what Dr. Kumar says, I would be reluctant to label any product “uninteresting.” I have seen bad, and I mean really BAD, products do really well.  

Which brings me to the next subject in marketing. While it is important to market your product, it is more important to market it well. Which basically implies identifying your target audience and accordingly providing hooks to engage them.

My book, Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions, is chicklit-meets-crime and I am quite clear that my target audience is Male/Female 16 – 35, SEC – A and B. Accordingly the most important media for me are magazines like Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Femina, JAM, Fad, Seventeen, Marie Claire, national dailies, and social networking sites on the Internet. And even within these, I work out different pegs for different publications.

For Vogue/Femina/Marie Claire, my protagonist is one of their readers – smart, sexy, confident. And that goes for me too – a sexy ex-investment banker turned author. For Fad and JAM, the irreverence and street-smarts of my protagonist matters, as well as the fact that I as the author am a multifaceted person – marathon runner, mountaineer, MA in Economics and MBA in Finance who’s chosen a career based on my passion; for trade related media, Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions is a tongue-in-cheek look at the TV industry and a great inside joke….and I belong to that industry.

While book reviews never hurt, I am not really pushing for them. Let’s face it, while it is exteremly well written (yeah, even if I say so myself. You can form your own opinions after reading the first chapter. ) and racy, it is not nobel prize winning category. Plus, young readers don’t go much by reviews. 

Beleagured authors try and even succeed in getting media space devoted to them (media companies as as hungry for content as we are for space), but if they don’t maximise the platform given to them they may have limited success.

As for the rest, I agree with Dr. Arun Kumar. If it is interesting and provides value it will get a response sooner or later. The important thing is to keep pushing and pushing it right.

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Curiously, this morning, I found myself running out of ideas for my blog. What’s curious about it, you say (that’s just a mystery writer building suspense). Patience and all will be revealed (now that’s just plain grandstanding).

 

You see, the reason I first started blogging was to discipline myself. In one of my earlier post I’ve mentioned the importance of writing morning pages. Morning pages as I’ve mentioned in one of my earlier posts are nothing but three pages of writing first thing in the morning. That’s it. Just writing – whatever comes to your mind (read more about it here and here).

 

I tend to use the morning pages a little differently. I use them to flesh out ideas that I’m going to write that day. I also use them to remind myself of some common mistakes people make while writing. No matter how accomplished we are or how much we’ve written, we tend to forget some important rules. For example, sometimes I tend to fall in love with my prose and end up writing three pages of description of a tree. Yep, the part readers tend to skip.

 

But, my morning pages today kinda acquired a life of their own and ran into reams full of angst and gripes against the world. The reason being today I ended up reading the paper before the morning pages and read an announcement of a film project. I also discovered that the script that I had written for the producer had had been credited to someone else.

 

To come back to point, gripes are hardly suitable material for a blogpost. I mean, I’m having a bad day doesn’t mean I have to ruin if for others. I should at least give them a fighting chance to ruin it themselves.

 

But that got me thinking. How do people who post everyday come up with material?  So I did some search and came up against some good ideas. Josh Porter outlines some good ideas for general blogging in his blog. As does Lorelle.

 

As I was searching I had an idea. I thought to myself, why not write about certain dos and don’ts for writers not related to writing. I mean I’ve been bummed many times and have loads of experience so the materials all there. And the first lesson is ALWAYS REGISTER.

 

Always register your scripts and manuscripts. You can register Manucripts / film/TV scripts / Songs / Concepts / Stories etc. with the Film Writer’s Association in Andheri (W). They are located in Richa Building, near Mongini’s Bakery, Off Link Road, Opposite Fame Adlabs. You have to be a member first and I think the basic membership fee is Rs. 2700 or thereabouts. Thereafter you can register your stuff at the cost of Rs 1 per page plus Rs. 2 for admin purposes.

 

However, for manuscripts I prefer the copyright division of the HRD Ministry. They are located near Mandi House in New Delhi. You can view and download the copyright form here.

 

On a cheerier note, I started and finished Sue Grafton’s B is for Burglar yesterday. For all you crime fiction enthusiasts, Sue Grafton is the lady for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“What rule do you follow? Do you outline your entire story/book before beginning? Or do you just structure the novel, e.g., broad areas of conflict? Or do you just begin?”
I carried out this discussion in one of my groups. You see, I’m a very insctinctive sort of a writer. I’ve always found it fun to just start and wait to see what unfolds. I write whatever I feel like. I don’t really plan or outline my stories. But I was very interested to know how others did it and what their viewpoints were. I must say I got very interesting responses. I thought I would put them up here:
 
 
1. “Some mystery writers I know use different methods for keeping the reader guessing until the end of the ‘who dunnit.’

One writes the ending first, then decides what scene needs to come just before it, then the scene before that and so on. I don’t if this will work for everyone, but it works for her.

Another writer puts clues among a list of items found at the scene, so that it might be hidden among other things and not so obvious. Also, use a lot of Red-Herrings. Have enough suspects among your characters so that the real killer does not stand out until the hero figures it out. Each of the suspects might have a reason for wanting to kill the victim, but there is only one who actually did it.”
2. “Well, I think of each scene at night in bed. I pick a scene and play it in my head. Decided if I like it or not. When I start a story I think of the main characters personality, where they live, their background, and who they interact with. I usually start the story because I’m inspired by something and think of an action scene in the middle of the story. Then I begin my story. I write the backbone of the story until I reach that action scene. Then I write the action scene in detail and detail what I had already written. If I like the story I usually have something to continue it, so I continue. So that is how I rite my stories. If you want to be a fast writer and just get those books on the shelfs, then write a plot or whatever. I think the stories are better when there thought of more and the writer put more time into thining about it and creating a new world.” 
 

3. “I just get a concept, or scene that i like, or that won’t leave me alone. I go over it, wording it diffrent ways, till I find one I like. If it’s a concept, I start puuting detials into it. If it’s a scene, I build up a story around it. I typically have an outline before I start typing, but the garbage bins of my hometown are full of my scrawlings and scribbles, trying to get something right in my head.” 
 

4. “When I taught my fiction writing classes for the last ten years, this is what I generally recommended that writers consider when plotting a novel.

1. What does your main character want? Or what is their goal at the time the story starts?
2. Why can’t they have what they want?
3. What happens if he/she doesn’t get what they want?
4. How does he/she struggle to get what they want?
5. What additional hardships does your character face?
6. When does it appear hopeless?
7. Does the main character finally get what he/she wants?
8. When is the distress alleviated?
9. Does he/she settle for something less than what they originally wanted?
10. What is unexpected or surprising about the ending?

Go through each question for each main character, your hero and heroine (protagonist). Then go through the same questions for your villain (antagonist) as well.

For each new scene or chapter, you should tell the reader four basic things in the opening paragraphs:
1. Where am I? (the setting, give the reader a clear picture of where your story takes place.)
2. What’s the time frame? This includes the year if it is a historical, or clues for present day, or in the future. Also include the time of year (season), and the time of day or night.
3. Whose head am I in? Make sure it is clear which point of view (POV) we are seeing the action take place. Depending on the genre, you can have more than one point of view, but avoid a cast of thousands, as this will confuse the reader. Keep the points of view to your main characters and maybe a secondary one if needed. Stay in one point of view per scene.
4. What’s happening? Set up your conflict or central dillemma as soon as possible.

Keep in mind that editors are not willing to read through several slow pages to see if things pick up. So start out with a bang, have your character doing something important. Hook the reader in and hold them. Don’t have a flashback in your opening scene. Save that for later when there is a lull in the pacing or action. Fill in background information as you go, or wait until a later chapter to tell background information. If there is a lot of background that the reader should know up front, then maybe you need a Prologue.

I hope this helps, as this is what editors look for in good writing. You need conflict between characters, or a central dillemma to keep the reader intrigued. Have a good hook at the end of each chapter to pull the reader into the next one. Don’t end with your characters going to sleep, as this signals the reader that it is okay to put the book down. If they do sleep, then make sure it is disturbed by something, nightmares or whatever.”

5. “I think it helps to have an overarching outline, to know where I’m headed when I begin. However, my characters have their own ideas, and once I’m truly immersed, nothing happens like I planned it!” 
 

6. “Did you read Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston? She wrote that book in a day & a half while she was hiding out from a voodoo master (who wanted to turn her into a zombie) waiting for her ship to come & take her back home to the USA. I think I read that story in Alice Walker’s book In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens.”

7. “I find that when I just start writing without an outline, I don’t always finish the story. On the other hand, if I have an outline it keeps me on task and gives me some direction. Not that the characters can’t change the outline! Sometimes they have a mind of their own!” 
 

8. “I find having a general outline helps me not chase too many rabbits. I lay out a general plan for every chapter, just enough to keep me focused and on track. Otherwise, I may end up with so much that the reader may feel like they are talking to a schizophrenic.” 
 

9. “I usually just begin, then halfway through I go back and change everything.”

10. “I am unique when it comes to writing. I get my inspiration from just about anywhere music, a TV show, I even came up with an idea when I was walking in a boat. The sound of my feet hitting the wooden floor made me come up with an idea!As far as how I write I take that insriation, usually I come up with a scene, and my whole book it sort of built around that scene. But I don’t make an outline in advance, I just kind of let my mind wander as I write. I honestly don’t think I would be able to write if I had a strict outline I had to follow. But I write it and then just revise everything. I am so going to follow a lot of the advice given here!” 
 
 
If any one of the group members happens to visit this site and find their replies here, please do contact me and I will set up an acknowledgement. And if you have your own blog(s)/site(s), do let me know the URL(s) and I will put it/them on this article as a link. Thanks a lot everybody. This discussion really helped me as, I know, it will help a lot of other writers.

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People often ask me what do I write? Now this is a very tricky question. I’m tempted to tell them to write whatever they are passionate about, what they believe in and if they believe it will make a good story. But, what you might believe in may not sell-able. You are truly in a happy place if what you are passionate about is also sellable.
So the obvious corollary to that is write something that will strike a chord with the public. Study trends in films and books. Find out what sells and write accordingly, but, and here’s the sticky part, write with conviction. If need be, take some time off to generate conviction.
You know, when Ian McEwan (yes the one who’s won the booker and whose ‘Atonement’ is being made into an eponymous film) first approached a publisher, the publisher, impressed with the former’s writing talents asked him to write poignant stories about human suffering. McEwan reportedly told the publisher that he couldn’t do that because he had never experienced any suffering, having had a reasonably happy and robust childhood. The publisher told him, “Invent unhappiness.”
If you’re a true writer you’ll have many ideas in your head (though that is also debatable. There are many writers like Harper Lee who write just the one great book and never follow it up with another, great or otherwise.). The challenge is in choosing between the idea closest to heart vis-a-vis the one that will sell.
I have a publishing contract for my book Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions. Now. But I have also written another book earlier and have instinctively held back all these years. The reason? The book is more esoteric and also targets a more difficult market. Once you are a published author it becomes easier to find a willing audience for highbrow stuff.
I had the idea for Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions a long time ago. It happily co-existed, and occasionally jousted for space, with other ideas (the book being talked about in the paragraph above being one of them). I knew it was a seller. So why did I not write KK first? Because I was then high on another spirit.
But I was lucky. Income from TV was great and I could afford to wait. Even if that hadn’t been the case, I don’t think I would do anything differently. I couldn’t. You see, when an idea grips you, it takes over your imagination, obsesses you. It is quite like being in love. You have no control over it.Being on a fire for an idea is a different feeling altogether. A true writer knows that, appreciates it and will not trade it for anything in the world.

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If you’ve decided to write for the screen, chances are you’ve already scoured the bookstores for reading material on the same. (If you haven’t, you ought to :)) Chances are even greater that your local bookstores will only store books on screenplay writing penned by a certain Mr. Syd Field (when they do so at all).  This happened to me as well when I first started out. I went out and bought all books written by him. It was only a few weeks later a kind sould suggested books by Lajos Egri.Beg, borrow, steal, but try and lay your hands on his books – The art of Dramatic Writing and The Art of Creative Writing. You won’t regret it.

In these two books you will find all you need to know about developing interesting characters as well as structuring your screenplay.

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As I mentioned in my profile, people often ask me all sorts of questions related to writing. How did I get the courage to give it all up? I just did. It all happened with the frightful realization that half my life was over (figuratively speaking, not literally, I hope) and I hadn’t done any of the things that I had planned on doing.

Has it been worthwhile? The simple answer is yes, yes, oh yes! I have a decent bank balance, so that’s the financial consideration taken care of; and I have a film script under production and a book, Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions that’s getting published so that’s creative satisfaction taken care of.

I would like to say that it has been a piece of cake but the reality is that it was tough going initially. I didn’t get many writing assignments. Just the odd pilot here and there with no guarantee that it would ever be produced or that I would ever get paid. Nonetheless, I persevered. I wrote and wrote and wrote.  I didn’t restrict myself just to screenwriting. I wrote for anything that paid – newspapers, magazines, in-house magazines, corporate brochures. But then I am lucky that I’m equally fluent in both English and Hindi. Many of you may not have that option.

The bottomline is only do it you are very sure that that is that you want to do. No matter how much writers say otherwise, that self – doubt, financial constraints, frustration are the constant companions of every novice writer.

But there are upside as well. You get to work on your own time, you get to take a vacation whenever you want and the money, well, if you are a little bit smart, the light monetary drizzle (or the drought, as the case may be) soon turns into a downpour. And even if you don’t actually put a pen to paper or boot your laptop, you’re always working.  Whether you goof off to the movies, get drunk, go shopping, it’s all work, or if you prefer, research. You never know what you may get out of watching Aap ka Suroor.

Plus writers, especially screenwriters get to say cool things like I’m a film and TV writer. This is invariably followed by oohs and aahs and the inevitable ‘do you write for Kyunki?’  If I’m feeling mischievous, I answer in the affirmative and embellish my hellish working experience with Ekta Kapoor. I tell them how she works only at night and sleeps through the day, how she has an uncontrollable itch in her hand and can’t desist from slapping people.  

Is it true? If I were in America I would plead the Fifth Amendment here! But true or not, you have to agree it is entertaining. As the doctor tells Billy Crudup in Big Fish: “You were born a week early, but there were no complications. It was a perfect delivery. Not very exciting, is it? And I suppose if I had to choose between the true version and an elaborate one involving a fish and a wedding ring, I might choose the fancy version. But, then that’s just me.” (see now, watching Big Fish was research, wasn’t it?)

 

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