‘Education should not stop. Not at any age. Now and then I myself learn something new. You are all lucky you have a lifetime of learning ahead.’
These words left a lasting impression on my young mind.
They were spoken by the principal of my school, the New Indian School of Kuwait, now United School of Jabriya since its restoration after the invasion of Kuwait. Late Dr Gerald Rodericks was indeed a visionary, and even today he is remembered fondly by all his students.
When I came to know about the Blogchatter’s Creative Writing course, I registered with them without giving it a second thought. Because writing is not just about writing fluently, it's about mastering the craft, and that is what I hope to achieve from attending this course.
The Writing Festival
Blogchatter Creative Writing e-course is a 16-week programme that started in March and will end in June. The course began with an 8-week Writing festival that comprised of nine workshops by publishers and authors. We were given additional resources to study (see the end of the post). Every workshop covered a different aspect of creative writing. Each presenter had a different style and experiences to share.
1. Aditya Sinha – For full-fledged journalist Aditya Sinha, writing non-fiction comes naturally. Politics, economy and current affairs are some of the things he loves to write. He presented an interactive session on non-fiction writing.
2. Samarpita Sharma – With degrees in Economics and Mass Communication and experience in journalism, Samarpita rules the world of freelancing and editing with aplomb. She owns a writing studio called Cover To Cover. She spoke about beta reading and editing live on Instagram.
3. Dipankar Mukherjee – As the founder of Readomania, India’s fastest growing independent publishing house, he is passionate about bringing stories to readers. He runs a writing retreat in the Himalayas where he conducts creative writing workshops. Dipankar conducted a writing workshop on Instagram.
4. Anand Neelkantan – A prolific writer, Anand has many books to his credit, including the bestseller, Asura tale of the Vanquished. His books explore the counter telling of mythology. Anand talked about modern/visual storytelling on Instagram.
5. Chitra Divakaruni – With 18 books under her belt, Chitra Divakaruni believes in penning down character-driven stories. Chitra feels it is the depth of a character which makes the story stand out and connect with the reader. Chitra discussed the technique to build memorable characters on Twitter.
6. Posham Pa – Posham Pa is an attempt to bring together the gems of Hindi literature and literature of other languages, in Hindi. Posham Pa also provides a space for new writers to publish their writings. The motto is of the platform is ‘Sahej Hindi, Nahi Mahez Hindi’. Posham Pa explored poetry writing.
7. Kanchana Banerjee – Kanchana has been into content creation for more than two decades. She has experience in various genres, which include fiction, PR and writing for corporate clients. Her work involves writing to specifications and a lot of rewriting to cut publication. She discussed handling rejection by publishers and how to rewrite your manuscript so that publishers accept it.
8. Kiran Manral – Kiran Manral is a bestseller author. Apart from fiction, she has excelled in the non-fiction book ‘Karmickids’ direct from personal parenting. She’s the idea editor at the woman’s channel ‘SheThePeopleTV’. Kiran discussed book marketing from the author’s perspective.
9. Saumick Pal is the author of Silver Hair Sins – the first Indian visual fiction novel.
Niches & genres
The festival covered many different niches and genres, in the process sharing a vast amount of knowledge and techniques of writing. Now it would be impossible to document such a massive amount of information in one blog post, so I’ll share the key learning points in this blog post.
However, the most important lesson that I learnt during this festival is that there are two ways to good quality content. One way is to follow the tried and tested like many, or you may go the other way of thinking out of the box and innovation. Whichever way you select you to have to work hard at it and package it suitably to succeed.
Key learning points
Between the Cover: Content
Every writing, fiction or nonfiction, has to pass the four stages – research, draft writing, rewriting and editing.
A good book has four qualities. It serves the purpose, has good structure, is interesting to the intended audience and is readable.
The purpose of the book is essential. For whom is the book written? Different people write nonfiction for different reasons, and if the book serves that purpose effectively, it may join the list of bestsellers. Fiction is mostly written for the pleasure of the readers.
People read fiction primarily for pleasure. People read nonfiction because they expect to learn something new. It may be an education. Or revelations. But if a piece fails to deliver detailed information, it falls short of the reader's expectations?
A significant drawback of Indian nonfiction is that most writing is inflated and self-important, which makes it dull for the reader. We can improve nonfiction by cutting off the excess material and keeping the language readable and straightforward.
While writers of fiction may dare to be the gods of their writing world, the writers of nonfiction have to stay as close to the truth as possible.
A writer can make her writing interesting if she has the expertise of the topic on hand. One way to acquire that expertise is by digging deep and doing a lot of research. However, personal interest in the subject is as important if not more. Reading good quality content on the topic is another way to improve your writing. Interviewing experts complements good research. Form plus content is equal to a good book.
Beta reading is about the plot of the book and not so much about the quality of content. It requires knowledge of the finer points of manuscript writing.
An editor looks for the loopholes in your manuscript.
If you are self-editing, it is better to leave your work for 24 to 48 hours before coming back to edit.
One way to find hidden mistakes is to read the manuscript aloud.
Another method requires printing of the manuscript and then check for one issue at a time.
One Skill All Writers Need: Storytelling
No matter what genre you write in, you must master the art of storytelling so that your story is understood well.
8 point arc method makes the writing process efficient it reduces the number of times you would need to rewrite and leaves little scope for loopholes.
There may be different methods of storytelling, and various triggers may work for different people. But the core elements of plotting remain the same.
If you multiply the storytelling by fiction and by social commentary, you could change the world dramatically.
Counter telling a mythological story is an effective way to arouse the interest of your audiences.
To make a story come alive, it makes sense to tell the story through the eyes of a character. Also, if you use the five senses to describe your settings, your story will come alive.
Context guides us correctly as to how a character should speak or think.
Write at least 3 to 4 rasas or emotion in your novel.
Visualise and tell the story with all five senses.
If you place your story in a unique location setting, your story becomes powerful.
Memorable characters carry unforgettable stories on their shoulders.
Plot your story, characters, conflicts, pace, backstory, character curve, the story-setting well in advance and let this guide you in your writing.
The Other Skills Writers Learn: Marketing & More
Publishers can quickly market books that fit into one genre.
The back-of-book blurb is an essential sales tool.
Being part of an online community matters a lot. Online community enhances your reach.
Social media presence is crucial because it is the easiest way to connect with your audience.
Facebook lives, Instagram lives, Twitter conversations, Twitter posts, jumping in discussions of readers, contests, giveaways, your blog post, discussing your writing process and YouTube are some of how you can market your book online.
Amplify the good word of mouth.
Book marketing should be a combination of online and offline marketing.
If a publisher rejects your book, there is no reason to despair or take it personally. You should analyse the reasons for which your book was rejected and rewrite to improve the sections that are not up to the mark.
Publishers like to check the readability quotient of your writing.
Publisher has a return on investment formula on his mind, and so he would prefer to go with an established author. Be ready to come up with work that can compete with that.