Saturday, 30 September 2017

Writers need to believe in themselves and their work


Writing can  be -- and is -- a hobby for many people. It  helps them de-stress and relax, connect with readers and writers and provides immense enjoyment.

Writing can be -- and is -- a profession for many others. It helps them earn a living. Screenplay writers, authors of best selling novels, content writers fall in this category.  For them, writing is not only an enjoyable endeavour but it is a form of livelihood. I belong to this category.

In August, I found myself in the happy position of having my script COACHING CLASS placed as semi-finalist in the reputed Academy Nicholl Fellowship (2017). It was a major milestone in my writing journey. From a professional point of view, it meant that it was a kind of a stamp or certificate if you will, for filmmakers who are on the look out for professional screenwriters.

Sure enough, I began to get requests from talent management companies almost immediately and one of the top Indian production companies showed interest too. All very exciting, believe me.

A few weeks later the production company got back with feedback on the script. They were interested and would like to take it forward subject to some conditions.

Changes in one's work is inevitable--especially if you are writing for movies. Film-making is a collaborative business and it's necessary for different departments -- such as direction, cinematography, editing -- to work together to translate the writer's vision into a feature film.  So, some things, while they work on the page might not work on the screen and a writer needs to (based on inputs from the film-making team) make changes to her/his script.

I realized that the production company's feedback and the changes that they sought in the script would be necessary to make the script morph into a movie. However, while I was willing to do that there was a bigger problem with the company's T&Cs.

Their bottomline: they wanted me to make the changes as per their brief without a contract and without being paid for my time and work. Moreover, if they didn't like the changes I made, they could wash their hands off it and I would be back to square one! They would sign a contract only if and when the whole team had approved the rewritten script and I would have to keep working on it till it was considered greenlight-worthy!

My bottomline: My work as a professional writer was being undermined.

You might wonder what's the big deal in rewriting a script for free when there is a chance of bringing it to life on the celluloid screen? Well, look at it this way... suppose you had a legal battle on your hands and you approached a lawyer to fight the case for you? You would be expected to pay the lawyer for his work and time whether or not he/she won the case for you. The lawyer is providing you with a professional service for which he/she needs to be compensated. The same rules should apply to creative professions as well. But unfortunately they don't.

Given that the story is the foundation on which a film is built, it is neither fair not right to undermine the writer's work by suggesting that she work for free and without a contract. Sadly, writers continue to undermine themselves and their rightful position in the industry by agreeing to write for free to get their projects developed into films.

I tussled with the decision but I decided to pass up on this so-called "opportunity". I believe that as a writer we need to respect ourselves and our own work before we demand respect and dignity from the industry.

Did I do the right thing? Would love to hear your thoughts....



Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Story = Conflict

Photo by Tanja Heffner on Unsplash.com


Life imitates art. Or does art imitate life?

Whichever way you may look at it, you can’t get away from the fact that in life and in art, there is conflict. 

While in real life you do your best to avoid conflict, if you did the same in your writing, your story would be dull, drab and downright unreadable or unwatchable. 

Imagine a movie where all characters live happily and there is no conflict.  Or a novel where page after page is a no-conflict-zone?  Boring, right? 

Conflict in your story ENGAGES your reader/viewer. That’s the top reason why you need conflict in your story.  It keeps them watching the movie or turning the pages.  It gives them reason to root for your hero, fear for him and hope that he will be able to bring down the villain or triumph over the obstacles. 

Different types of conflict

Having conflict however does not mean that every scene needs to be a ‘fight’ scene. Conflict can be  about  one person against another.  But it may also be about man/woman vs nature or man/woman vs self. 

While external conflict (man vs man) often is more visual; internal conflict (man vs self) is also needed to help build character arc. 

When you think about your story, make sure you have conflicts of both types—external and internal. If you are writing a superhero story or a Wonder Woman kind of movie, there will be big-bang conflict scenes. Keeping the readers on the edge of their seat. Will she save the world?

A romance will have external conflict as well as internal conflict and that’s where reader engagement will happen. Will they be able to get over their differences and live happily ever after? 

Building conflict into scenes

Design your scenes so that that you can play with the dynamics of “tension”.  Because conflict creates tension. And tension leads to the interplay of hope and fear. 

The best scenes are always those that have an underlying sense of tension. For instance, your scene may be about  a girl leaving her office and taking the bus home. But if you introduce a small bit of external conflict (example: her interaction with a co-passenger who knocks against her) or you have her struggling with a decision—aka internal conflict—(example: should she tell her sister that she lost her favourite pen?) the scene becomes more interesting. 

Layering of conflict

Conflict also plays a critical role in the story’s ‘plot progression’ and the hero’s character arc. For instance if your story revolves around a man hunting down his wife’s killer (like in the movie The Fugitive), you would see him face obstacles at every level.  As his hunt takes him closer to the villain the obstacles that he has to overcome become more and more difficult. That is plot progression. The impact that these events/obstacles have on the hero and how he changes (or not) is his character arc.
And you have your reader/viewer asking: what happens next?

Ultimately then, story is conflict. 

Here’s what Robert McKee, screenwriting guru says:  Story is the fundamental conflict between subjective expectation and cruel reality. Story is about an imbalance and opposing forces (a problem that must be worked out, etc.). A good storyteller describes what it's like to deal with these opposing forces ...calling on the protagonist to dig deeper, work with scarce resources, make difficult decisions...and ultimately discover the truth.

Did you like this post? Share your thoughts below….

Thursday, 31 August 2017

The Story of a Nicholl Semi Finalist



“Writing is a lonely art. You tend to sit on your own in a room without a whole lot of feedback, and frankly, your mother’s feedback, your dad’s feedback is not really what you want because they love and adore you. You actually want to read the tough feedback from professional readers or from the agents or managers that you submit your material to in your great quest to get representation.” – Peter Samuelson, screenwriter.

Contests are a great way to get feedback that every writer needs—to understand what is working in the script and what’s not. I chose to enter my drama screenplay, Coaching Class in the Finish Line Competition in 2016 because they promised to give me feedback for my script. What’s more, based on the evaluation, I could re-submit a revised draft. This enabled me to improve my script taking it to the top of the contest table and winning a first runner-up place. 

While a contest win can be a great ego boost, it actually is much more than that. It enhances a writer’s credentials. Being ranked among the winners of credible contest improves your chances of getting a foot in the door and having your work read by people who make films and are on the lookout for great scripts. 

The Finish Line competition gave me the confidence to approach a number of top production companies, both in India and in Hollywood as well as agents. Meanwhile, the most prestigious screenwriting contest – the Academy Nicholl Fellowships – which is organised by the same people who run the Oscar Awards came up. And I decided to enter Coaching Class in Nicholl’s. If it ranked well,  the chances of it being read by industry professionals across the world would improve manifold. If not, I had nothing to lose!  

In July, results season rolled in. And to my great surprise—and delight—Coaching Class had made it to the Quarter Finals. It was one of 361 (out of a total number of 7100 entries) to have made the cut. Excitement kicked in even though I knew the next leg of the contest would be much tougher. By August, I was informed that my script was only one of 151 scripts to advance to the Semi Finals round. I was well and truly stunned and super happy, once it began to sink in. 

The feedback from the judges was also sent to me.  One judge said, “This drama, set in India, has an interesting, involving story that is full of tension and conflict. Careful attention has been paid to structure and both the main plot and the subplots have strong development.” 

Another remarked, “The characters are richly detailed and their goals and dreams feel appropriate and unique to each of their character arcs. Even the ancillary characters…have interesting backstories.”
More importantly, they pointed out what needed work in the story. Unlike Finish Line though, I did not have the chance to submit a revised version. But reaching the Semi Finals of Nicholl’s has boosted my confidence and given me the calling card I need for future interactions with film industry professionals. 

Even though the script did not make it to the Finals, I feel immensely proud to be walking in the footsteps of two-time Nicholl Semi Finalist Michael Arndt (among many other prominent screenwriters) who went on to win the Best Screenplay Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine.

Samuelson puts it succinctly: "There is no great victory in writing a script that isn't produced unless it was a stepping stone while you were perfecting your craft in order to be able to write a script that did get made into a film. You just need to do it."












Thursday, 24 August 2017

The Art of the Title

Finding the right title for your book is crucial. An inspired title can create the right buzz for the book and help it along in its journey towards success.

Today, I have on my blog Debeshi Gooptu Bakshi. She is a former journalist turned author who lives and works in Gurgaon. Debeshi's book which was published by Juggernaut Books in January 2017 goes by the intriguing and creative title of Dragon Aunty Returns

In this post, Debeshi talks about how you can ensure you have a title that is unique and memorable...



Do not judge a book by its cover.

Isn’t this a proverb all of us have grown up hearing and believing?

Ironically though, proverb aside, books tend to be judged by their titles and covers. People do it all the time. How many times have you walked into a bookstore and been wowed by a fantastic title and cover of a book whose author you knew nothing about? I’m guessing – quite often!

Despite what life tells you, the cover and title of a book is very important and, as an author, you need to make sure you spend precious time conjuring these up. The reason I say conjure is because your title should be like the white rabbit you pull out of the hat. A magic trick no one else can replicate. That will ensure your book will live on in the memory of your readers forever. Your Unique Selling Proposition. Isn’t that what all us authors want?

To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, Little Women, The Great Gatsby, The Kite Runner, The Mistress of Spices, Fear of Flying, Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, My Name is Red, these are some of my favourite books. Don’t you just marvel at the ingenuity and creativity behind the evocative titles? Wouldn’t you be tempted to read books with names such as these? If you haven’t already!

The other day, an author I know was tweeting about a thriller she had written and the title intrigued me. I went looking for the book on Amazon and found ten other books with the same name! It took me a while to get to the book I was looking for. It turned out to be a lovely read. What a shame about the repetitive titles though. A brilliant book, buried in lists of books with the same name and nothing else in common.

So what does one do to create a title for a book that cannot be copied by anyone else? With copyright laws being dodgy, there is no way to actually copyright a book title. But you can do the following to make sure your title is safe.

Make it Short - Make sure your title is short and attention-grabbing. A long meandering sentence is not a good idea. You can have a sub-title if you need one.

Conveys what the Book is About - The book title should give an idea of what you are writing about and that’s not the easiest task in the world. To summarise thousands of words into a 3 to 4 word title. Put your thinking cap on and get creative. Be funny if your genre is humour. Not otherwise.

Evocative - The title should be evocative and resonates with your readers.

Run a Search for Similar Names - The best thing to do is run a search to make sure someone hasn’t already written a book with the same name before.

Once you have ticked off all the boxes, you can only pray that once the book is published, no one comes up with the same name. Great minds do think alike you know! Here’s wishing you luck on that one!


Do you have a favourite book title? Would love to hear your thoughts about why you love it.


Sunday, 13 August 2017

Celebrating the Release of #Avishi and #MySingaporeFling

This Weekend has been a particularly busy one for two of my #MyNoWriMo author buddies, Saiswaroopa Iyer and Sudesna Ghosh. A book release is no mean feat. Writers, who prefer to be left alone to create beautiful tales, have to come out of their writing dens and market their precious creations. Believe me, marketing can take the mickey out of the best of writers!

While Sai's book Avishi is set in Ancient India and tells the story of a warrior queen, Sue's is a modern romance set in Singapore and is titled My Singapore Fling.

Intrigued, aren't you? Well, I will let Sai and Sue introduce their books to you and what prompted them to write these stories... Over to...

Saiswaroopa Iyer: 


Avishi is the reimagined rendition of Rig Vedic legend of Vishapala, the female warrior with a prosthetic leg. It felt wonderful to work on a relatively unknown character from the ancient lore as opposed to retell the same stories (Nothing against retellings here!). The readers can find an ancient society, full of surprises, breaking all the stereotypes, we have about Ancient India (existence of representative set ups, women holding key positions and so on)

A kickass female warrior with a prosthetic leg from Ancient India? Really? How? What would a world look like where wedlock did not exist yet? How would a world without caste, without patriarchy be? This world looks egalitarian and perfect. What goes wrong in the story? Well, read to find out more! 😊

Some might be intrigued that the source of this story is just a precious couple of hymns from the RigVeda. There were those who cautioned the material is not enough to write a short story, forget a full-length novel. I took it up as a creative challenge than anything else because the story deserves to be told and retold.

To buy the book, hit the amazon link below. 

Amazon Link                                            Goodreads Link



Sudesna Ghosh:


My Singapore Fling is my first ever attempt at a romance. I was writing short stories for children and a YA novella in addition to my non fiction books when I got inspired to try my hand at it. When you're surrounded by romance author friends, it is impossible to not feel the urge to indulge in a little romance. Haha.

My book was rejected as not being Indian enough in character and setting by traditional publishers. Well, I can't help it if an international romance with an inter-racial touch came out of my fingers, I say!

I hope my readers like it because I certainly had fun writing the scenes. And no, Dipa is not me - although a solo trip for a fling does sound tempting...

To buy the book hit the amazon link below: 

 Amazon Link                                 Goodreads Link


Here's wishing both Sai and Sue the very best and looking forward to many more stories from them.


Thursday, 1 June 2017

#MyNoWriMo Writer Buddies Pen 150,000+ Words in May!

The #MyNoWrimo Update

One month after we began the #MyNoWriMo initiative, we are a bunch of Happy Writers.

We motivated ourselves and each other to kick procrastination and kickstart the daily habit of writing. It's amazing how despite our pretty hectic schedules we managed to find the time to indulge our passion.

Along the way, we exchanged tidbits of information, learned from each other, celebrated our writing achievements and bonded over everything from love for cats to drooling over cakes!

While we all had flexi writing targets and each of us was working on different projects of varying lengths, the collective output was more than 150,000 words. That's the power of motivation! 😎

Here's what the #MyNoWriMo Buddies have to say about their key learnings:



Saiswaroopa Iyer

30,000 words in 30 days (Actually a day less!). A month ago, I did not dream I'll be able to declare the early draft of my novella this soon. And what's more, I had delightful company all along the journey. I cherish each and every conversation we had over a variety of topics right from genre writing, self publishing, editing and even cakes and recipes! Further, it is a great case of Social media (dubbed as a distraction to writers) becoming an enabler in bringing committed authors together who in turn kept the motivation high. This peer to peer learning as well as bonding is something unique in the group among all the writer groups I have seen.
I really hope we'll stay together (and grow!) and see each of the written books being published and marketed. Three Cheers MyNoWriMoπŸ˜€

Devika Fernando

I'm glad I joined all these fabulous writer ladies for #MyNoWriMo because we spent the whole month motivating each other as relentlessly as we were typing away on our manuscripts. Different countries or continents, different genres, word counts and methods didn't matter at all - what mattered was checking in with each other daily in our Twitter group chat and cheering for each and every achievement. It was also lovely to just talk about things not directly related to writing and getting to know our writing buddies better.


Sudesna Ghosh

Participating in #MyNoWriMo has taught me two things - 1) I procrastinate way too much. 2) A support group of authors from any genre or location can be great motivation. While I don't see myself writing every single day of the calendar year, I see myself procrastinating less and learning more about the self publishing world as I continue my friendship with this group of author friends 😊 

Ruchi Singh

As I look back, the month has been pretty happening for me. There have been exceptional changes in my personal life but the only constant has been the motivation and inspiration from #MyNoWriMo. Fellow writers have been a great support. Despite the daily chaos at home I have been able to write most of the days. Wish we continue in the same pattern for days to come. Cheers! 

Paromita Goswami 

I joined the group in the middle of the month when schools had closed down for summer vacation and most of the kids had headed for vacation or grandparents visit. My family was doing none of it which meant I had added responsibilities. Keeping the kids busy. So I started the summer camp hunting and eventually ended up organizing my own summer camp for the kids for fifteen days. We had space mission, adventure trip, lemonade stall and post office visit and in all that my writing took a back seat. MyNoWriMo inspired me to write--at snail's pace--and I would only announce 50 words or 100 words a day but soon I was hitting my groove. The mini discussions on publication, marketing, plotholes  pulled me back into writing again and finish my unfinished manuscript. Thanks to all the wonderful ladies for making the group so lively and fun.

Esha Pandey

I joined #MyNoWriMo on the 5th of May and by 31st May I had penned 23k words. I am about to finish my first draft in a week's time. All this has been possible because of the constant support and motivation of my writing buddies. We are a strange bunch, with various eccentricities and experiences and different nationalities but the passion for writing unites us. Personally, my takeaway has not only been my wordcount but also a deeper understanding of various nuances of writing, publishing and book promotion. Last but not the least, I made "Cool" writer friends and that makes me cool too! 😎


Adite Banerjie

May 2017 will always be a memorable month for me. It will be one that stands for motivation and writer bonding. Starting on my new manuscript (and writing 25K words in a month was something that I could never have hoped to before #MyNoWriMo) and looking forward to continuing our association over the coming months. 'Coz writers always need that extra bit of motivation and "magical cake". 

And as all writers know, a good book deserves a sequel. So watch out for the next episode of our #MyNoWriMo adventures!


Wednesday, 10 May 2017

#MyNoWriMo Update... Writing is a Celebration

http://www.aditebanerjie.com/2017/04/mynowrimo-because-all-manuscripts-dont.html
Ten days into #MyNoWriMo, each of us have had our epiphanies, our writing triumphs and challenges and multiple mini-celebrations.

The best part of this initiative is that it is completely flexible. We are all working on our own WIPs, with our own targets. Sue is working on a series of short stories while I am writing a 50,000 word book that I had been procrastinating about for a year. Ruchi is working on a half-finished novella while Vandana has breathed new life into her historical novel.

Esha Pandey, the newest member of our group -- please say hello to  policewoman, mum of two and romance writer -- had a semi-finished WIP. But after she joined us on Day 5 of #MyNoWriMo she has already powered through another 6000 words and we have just celebrated the Tenth Day of our Writing Initiative.

So, over to the Magnificent Seven Writers who tell us about their learnings....

Saiswaroopa Iyer: 

The initial excitement when we start a manuscript is something we all cherish as authors. We would all like to power through as far as we can. But initial phases are where we also experience bouts of self doubt. It can be devastating.Thanks to #MyNoWriMo and more importantly, the buddy support, this phase doesn't seem as daunting.

Only an author can understand what another author goes through (that includes cheering each milestone, celebrating it together, supporting each other during down time, giving the much needed nudge). As we all understand it is a sprint, the discipline of writing daily matters. (Whether it is a couple of hundred words or 2000 words). It makes a difference when we declare our daily word counts. Somewhere we feel encouraged to push our selves a bit more.

During the first week, I reached a day-high of 2000+ words. Including two low output days (<600 words), the total output in ten days has been 10,000 words and it feels exhilarating to have conquered the initial fears.

As far as learning goes, writing daily, challenging our own best and plotting beforehand are the keys.

Sudesna Ghosh

I joined #MyNoWriMo a day late (May 2nd). My current word count is just over 10,000. I started my writing with a vague outline chalked out, but now I can see every minor detail in the plot. A daily writing habit and having daily motivation from my hardworking writer friends has kept me going. 

Writing is a solitary job but now I don't feel so alone :)

Vandana Shanker 

Much as I love being a part of the group, I have been the one on the sidelines. I joined #MyNoWriMo on May 2, with a lot of excitement. From the vantage point of April, May had looked free and easy. Just right to write!. Alas, the day job crashed the dream and I have been struggling. There were times when I felt like opting out. But 10 days down, I have hung on. Thanks to the awesome ladies of the group for driving me on. Want to reach the mark of 20K by this weekend. With over 17K today, it looks quite achievable. Touchwood!

All in all, despite the pressure, it has been wonderful to be a part #mynowrimo. I started with a manuscript of 12K, a historical set in India at the turn of the twentieth century. The manuscript had hit a block and I did not know where I was going. With the push from #mynowrimo fellow writers - it has surged ahead and it feels good to be productive once again. I can see the story, the characters, and their evolution. Isn't that the job half done? 

I am being a little realistic about the goals now but I hope by the end of the month, story would be at its last stage if not finished.

Devika Fernando

I love being a part of the #MyNoWriMo circle of writers. We're a rather international lot, writing about various topics and in different genres - and yet we have one thing in common: We motivate each other. We try our hardest to get words onto paper every day, we celebrate even small progress, and sometimes we bare our writerly hearts on a platter. Banter in between keeps the mood light and the muse entertained. It's been one week now, and we've all come far. I wrote around 10,000 words and I'm very happy with that. Can't wait to see what the second week brings us.


Esha Pandey
Esha Pandey

I joined #MyNoWriMo on the fifth day and  I am proud to say that I have accomplished about 6k words. It's a big deal for me as I have very busy days. I am really happy with all the support that I am getting from my fellow authors who are seniors in the business. I hope to finish my novel by the end of the month.

Here's to more and more words on pages.

Ruchi Singh

The week flew by in happy anticipation of completing my long forgotten MS-in-progress. I wrote about 3500 words and all the scenes are now clear and written down. #MyNoWriMo team rocked Twitter the whole week giving me much needed motivation and support to complete the outline of the said MS. Now I see myself completing the novella this month. Cheers!!


Adite Banerjie

Sometimes in our effort to achieve our writing goals, we forget the real reason we write--because it brings us so much joy! Our fears and anxieties with a double dose helping of procrastination often ruin the pleasures of writing. The mini-celebrations at achieving small goals, the competitive spirit and the fact that we inspire each other have all helped in bringing back the joy of writing for me.

Do join us in this Festive Celebration of Writing and follow us on Twitter to cheer us on! :)