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Category Archives: Fiction

Does Editing Change the Way you Write?

I’ve been editing manuscripts for a while now and I’ve noticed that it has changed the way I write a great deal.

In the beginning of my career, I edited scientific literature. I learnt to read without reading at all. So I may have read a scientific treatise on ophthalmology but if you asked me about it, I wouldn’t have much of an idea. The reason is language editing involves looking for grammatical errors and inconsistencies and this can be done without understanding the concepts that you are speed reading.

But you can’t do this when you edit fiction.When you edit fiction, you may need to read the manuscript twice or more, the first time, maybe in a hurry and the second time looking out for inconsistencies in the plot. I still work on the language of the book and haven’t moved to developmental editing, but I do this kind of editing when it comes to my own writing. So if I’ve written a few passages, I stitch it together and here editing helps. Editing cleans the paragraph and removes all clutter. The cleaner the paragraph is the more the story shines through.

I was advised by a writer that everything lies in the text itself. There is no need to look anywhere else, so reworking the text is what writers do and editing helps do this better.

The problem with editing this way, however, is that it takes much longer to finish the book or story at all. You are so intent on making that first chapter perfect that you do not finish the first draft at all. This method might not work with all writers. I thought it was wrong as far as I was concerned but now I think perhaps it is the only way I can write.

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2017 in Books, Fiction

 

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Return

For a long while now, I’ve been toying with the idea of revamping the website. That hasn’t happened yet but I suppose it will eventually. In the meanwhile I thought I should get back to blogging, something I still do where I work at InstaScribe.

Recently I was part of the UEA Creative Writing Workshop in Kolkata, India, and for reasons personal and otherwise this was the proverbial breath of fresh air.

So what happens in a writing workshop? What can you expect?

I don’t want to spoil the fun for those who have never attended a prose writing workshop before but one thing I can tell you is that you don’t necessarily write as much. The writing has to have happened before. The preparation to reach that space where you interact with writers should best have begun many months or even years before the workshop. Then the critiques that workshoppers receive will be of greater value.

I was excited by the sheer range of professionals who are interested by writing. Also the writing life. The idea of living on caffeine and inspiration. The idea of sitting at the ideal writing table immersed in creating a valuable tome. The idea of constructing the perfect tale. These are now dreams that people from many walks of life harbour.

And the mentors Romesh Gunesekera and Amit Chaudhuri showed aspiring writers and those who were writers already that a book is not ready when you think it is and it may be on its way when you think it is not.

When a manuscript is open for critique, so much is at stake. The idea itself, the theme, the syntax, the words themselves and even the author’s personality. It is a risk to put your work out there before a group of twelve or thirteen people. Not to mention experienced writers. Have you been to a writing workshop? What has your experience been like?

© neelima, 2015

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2016 in Day to day, Fiction, Inspiration

 

Talking to Amy Gigi Alexander-Part 1

I don’t understand Women’s day as a concept, as everyday is just another for some and The Day for others, but there are days when certain posts are appropriate. I had the opportunity to talk with the wonderful Amy Gigi Alexander- many of us must know her social media profile. She’s an inspiring woman and was kind enough to answer all my questions in time for International Woman’s Day. You must check her fb page: she combines her interests so magically and draws in people from diverse parts of the world with her enthusiasm- quite a refreshing way of looking at the world. She travels, she’s had her battles, she writes, she curates……

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Amy Gigi Alexander is a writer, explorer, traveler and believer in goodness. She writes long form travelogues mixed with memoir and fiction for publications around the world, including Lonely Planet, BBC Travel, World Hum, The Hindu, National Geographic, and more. Her stories have appeared in collections by Travelers’ Tales and Lonely Planet, as well other literary anthologies and journals.  You can read more of her work at www.amygigialexander.com

 

How is a woman’s writing about her travels any different from the travelogues by men?

I see you’ve decided to start with the easy question first. I’m teasing.

When I go to place, everyone knows I am a woman, and I am spoken to as a woman, offered experiences as a woman, and this treatment colors how I see the destination, culture, and people. The same is true for men. There are simply different experiences for men and women because many cultures treat the sexes differently.

   There are places a woman usually will not go: especially in conservative areas of the world or places which are dangerous to women as the idea of women traveling is unusual. So you might see a story by male travel writers with story lines such as crossing Afghanistan solo by horse, or sailing the high seas with Senegalese pirates—but it’s very rare to see such stories by women. There are lots of exceptions of women in adverse conditions going at it alone, such as Dervla Murphy, Arita Baaijens, Ella Maillart, and more. But the vast majority of women’s travel tales will not involve such narratives.

But I think this fine, because women have access to a world that men do not have when they travel: the world of women. This insider view is impossible for a man to witness, but a woman traveler has instant access due to being female. Some of the things I’ve been invited to do because I am a woman are: sitting on a rooftop with village women talking about their life stories; attending a childbirth; walking with female nomads across a desert. There are many ways women are living around the world, and as a woman, I’m an instant sister and able to take part.

So as women travelers, we really have the best of both worlds: we have access to both men and women, and if we want we can have solo adventures which push risk, or we can take risks in more intimate ways, developing bonds with a worldwide sisterhood.

You have so many stories on your fingertips- how do you keep track of them all?

I don’t think about my stories too much: when I travel I take a lot of notes, and sometimes the story is complete when I return from my journey—sometimes not. Once they are done, I just file them away and take them out as I feel inspired. I keep a running list of what I have completed and what is still in idea phase.

How should a woman travel—alone or in groups—what is your advice to her, particularly when it comes to safe and meaningful travel?

A woman should travel as she wishes.

There is no wrong way to travel, and both solo and group travel have value even though they are very different.

I didn’t travel a lot on my own for many years, and traveled with companions and friends. At first this had its own ease and I enjoyed it. But after I got more comfortable with traveling, I disliked having to constantly take someone else’s ideas and wants into consideration, and felt I wanted more spontaneity. I started traveling alone simply because I wanted to invite serendipity, and it is hard to include that in a structured agenda!

I enjoy traveling alone, but I also love traveling with other women. Traveling in a group of women can give you wider berth in some areas of the world, and if you don’t have a lot of time to make mistakes and get lost, group tours are really advantageous. Still, I also think when you are on that tour, wandering off alone now and again is a wise idea: it helps you see yourself as capable and strong.

Tell us about Walking Writing Women– you share 365 stories this year about traveling women in history. Where did the spark for his idea come from and how do you go about with the research of these sometimes obscure determined characters?

Writing Walking Women started because I wanted to walk across part of Newfoundland, and mentioned this on social media. I got many messages from women who said that they wished they could take a trip like that, but that they could not think of doing it alone—or didn’t want to. It occurred to me that we could all go together. Why not? So Walking Writing Women was born! We do take several trips a year and we meet all over the world, and write about the places we go as we travel together.

The #365 women idea came from a search I did online one day: I was looking for women travel writers and the Wikipedia page came up. On it was a list of travel writers who were mostly men, and a few women, most of whom were long since gone and from the period of history rife with colonialism. I began doing research on women who traveled and wrote about it, and discovered hundreds of women that needed a voice: poets, novelists, explorers, botanists, historians, and memoirists. So many women travel writers from around the world!

The idea grew overnight: why not share a woman travel writer a day on social media? Why not give a biography for each woman and show pictures of her life and literary accomplishments? Then I decided to turn these Facebook posts into a database, and with the help of the other members of Walking Writing Women, that is becoming a reality. At the end of 2015, when you do a search online for women travel writers you’ll see that tired Wikipedia page—but you’ll also see a huge database on our website. We want to create a resource which inspires women to travel and write, and we can think no better way to do that than use the women who have gone before us.

Follow Writing Walking Women on the fb page here.

You write short stories and do travel writing. Where do the lines blur between these two writing forms and where do they separate?

For me, they don’t really stand separate. I know that travel writing has a formulaic reputation, but I find that the travel genre lends itself very well to weaving memoir and stories about place. The only difficulty is that there is a framework that a travel story has to have, a start, a middle, an end. These parts have to be very clear, unlike fiction of cross genre writing, where literary forms can bleed into one another without questions.

 

In part 2 of the interview, we will take a look at bucket lists, social media tips and Project Inspire with Amy. Right now, let me check one to-do on my bucket list: read more about Walking Women on their fb page and inspire myself to move out of the world in my head to the World, the real construct.

© neelthemuse, 2015
Check out my book Unsettled @ Amazon

 
 

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Recovery

I must confess I am not through blogging. I blog a great deal where I work and that has led me to the illusion that I am blogging after all and have left nothing behind.But I have, of course.

Waxing eloquent about poetry is not enough– you must pursue it, but as this is my place of honesty, I have not been pursuing poetry for a while now. Not at all– all my interests are going prosaic and this worries me. Though I did madly read Philip Levine the other day.

There are many things about me that my blog has not touched and I find this strange.

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The first #book(see I’m a hashtag addict) I ever wrote was a self-help book. It took a couple of years for all the wheels and cogs to come together, but I wrote it to see if 326 pages was possible. It was.

Then I wrote a short novella, and considering that this is my blog and that it must be self-serving, I should have done more work on the paranormal romance genre and speculative fiction genre in general.

Has it ever happened to you that you have been blogging for a long time and you suddenly realized that you had a place at your disposal to say so many things, and you didn’t? I envy those who use their fbs and twitters to speak so fluently about the place where they are at.

It calls for some kind of fluency of the fingers to type out your life to your timeline.

When will I ever learn to do it–must I? Must you?

Of course.

© neelthemuse, 2015
Check out my book Unsettled @ Amazon

 

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2015 in Books, Day to day, Fiction, Paranormal Romance

 

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Finding your Voice: A Simple Exercise

Finding your voice is what all writing workshops are ultimately about.

I did an exercise a long time ago, days before the daily prompts you could subscribe to. One way that works is writing a short paragraph with three characters and writing from the perspective of each character.

Suppose there is a poet, a vampire and a woman

 

woman  the vampire- I leave to your imagination    Poet 1967

 

Write as though you are the poet. Tell the poet’s story, his house near the hills, his dreams of becoming a famous poet, his love affairs.

Then write as though you are the woman. The woman could be unhappy, someone who searches for truth in her unhappy relationship. Although she is despondent, she dares to search.

Write as though you are a female vampire trapped in a house with a hundred rooms. The vampire wants only to be wanted. She is trapped in a bell jar of unhappiness and wants release.

These are characters in my novella Unsettled. You can choose three characters of your own and see whose voice you most relate to. You will identify with one of the three characters and that is when you will write more freely, without glancing at the clock.

This is one way you can discover the inclination of your Voice.

Try this exercise and let me know if it worked for you as it did for me.

© neelthemuse, 2014
Check out my book Unsettled @ Amazon

 

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2014 in Books, Dark fantasy, Fiction, Mythical

 

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Writing Here

The literary scene is good in South Asia. Kind of like an ancient Banyan spreading it’s life across the horizon….

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I’m telling you this because it wasn’t like this at all when I was growing up. I lived in the Middle East and my father being a voracious reader got us books mostly by foreign authors. So I grew up reading a lot of British and American and Russian writing because that was all there was. Except for the occasional Ruskin Bond or R.K.Narayan.

Of course all this has changed. Now everywhere I look, someone tells me in a conspiratorial voice that he or she is an aspiring writer or a closet writer or a blogger or a freelancer.

Publishing houses are excited about the next big thing. Editors are on the look out for a manuscript they can ‘clean’ up. Facebook groups by writers, for writers and of writers are atomically exploding online. Mine included.

Every writer has a blog has a twitter account has a pinterest has a tumblr has an instagram.

Every book is alive and speaking in its own voice asking for reviews @ Amazon and Goodreads.

The new Festival in this Festive land where holidays are the norm rather than the rarity is the Lit Fest.

Performance Poetry Workshops are seeing puppeteers, theatre artists, publishers, engineers, teachers and marketing gurus composing poetry and enacting them in open spaces.

Eminent writers chat pleasantries while sipping spiced tea with wide-eyed wannabes and discuss the publication scenario.

Tiny groups of writers get together in cafes to free write and find themselves.

So although there is a view that there are way too many writers and all the writing that comes out is not all that good- it is an exciting time to be a writer in South Asia.

Lucky to be here!

neelthemuse@ 2014

Check out my book Unsettled @ Amazon

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in Books, Dark fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal Romance

 

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Reading with my Smartphone

Reading on your smartphone can be a bit addictive and maybe even laced with distraction but have you ever tried reading your paperback or hardcover with your smartphone?

Books are often very geography specific. It’s one thing watching a movie about a story set in a moor and quite another reading a heavily descriptive piece about one. You could decide to abandon a book because you can’t understand the landscape but sometimes that inaccessibility is a good thing- it makes you curious.

What I did while reading one of Robert Macfarlane’s brilliant books was google words, particularly the names of trees and birds and flowers that are completely foreign to my landscape and look for their images. This kind of reading does take much longer but it is so enriching!

It’s not just dictionary meanings I track down now- seeing the thing, especially with nature writing, changes the way you read and experience the book.

When some of you read my ebook Unsettled, you may wonder  what a yakshi or Indian femme fatale  looks like. What is the panna tree that she sits on like? You may have a mental picture of what you read but googling it could give you a complete shock!

I find this method very interesting while reading poems from diverse landscapes. Have you tried it?

neelthemuse@ 2014

Check out my book Unsettled @ Amazon

 

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2014 in Books, Day to day, Fiction, Nature

 

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