Sunday, 30 April 2017

#MyNoWriMo - Because all manuscripts don't get written in November!

If you are a writer you probably know about NaNoWriMo. Unless of course you have been living under a rock or have been writing away furiously in your Writing Cave. In the latter case, you probably have no need for a NaNoWriMo!

Of course for lesser mortals who are juggling day jobs and household chores and dreaming about writing that wonderful novel that has been playing out in our heads, NaNoWriMo is just what the Muse ordered. A whole month you can prep for (and it comes in November) and work on your manuscript. The sheer thought of millions of writers plugging away at their manuscripts all over the world is itself hugely inspiring.

But.... (yes, the dreaded 'but') life always doesn't always turn out as planned and for many of us, writing simply doesn't happen in November. So, what's the alternative? Well, what if you could create your own Novel Writing Month and join hands with some writer buddies for the much needed writing support? That's an idea worth exploring, thought Saiswaroopa Iyer, a writer-friend. Says Saiswaroopa,"November is not one of those months where I get to sit back and write. Hence, I set out to make this month of May as My Novel Writing Month. It's fabulous that Sudesna supported my tweet calling upon other interested writers and I got connected to some really awesome writers--and all girls! Can it get better?"

So Sai's idea of a MyNoWriMo (My Novel Writing Month) in May caught on and five of us joined in to a month long writing session in May. Better still, unlike NaNoWriMo where everyone has to write a 50K word manuscript, we have decided to keep it flexible. So each of us will choose her own word count and the idea is to support each other in meeting our writing goals.

Meet the Six Writer Buddies of #MyNoWriMo. Wish us luck and I hope you will follow us on Twitter to keep pace with our progress and cheer us on....

Saiswaroopa (Last Book: Abhaya)

I am the kind of writer who lets her stories and characters brew, ferment and refine themselves in her mind before I find the confidence to type the story away. But in the course of writing my second novel, as I tried to cultivate a discipline of writing, I tasted the magic of being focused and persistent till the end. As someone who would like to challenge herself on every project, I want to write a short sequel to my debut Epic/Puranic fantasy Abhaya for my third work of fiction. Tentatively titled, Daughter of Mura, it traces the story of the orphaned daughter of the commander of Narakasura who was killed by Lord Krishna and her pursuit of vengeance.
I hope the sequel gets written during this sprint. Really excited to pursue this new way of writing.

Twitter handle: @sai_swaroopa

Sudesna Ghosh (Last Book: Just Me, the Sink & the Pot)

I did NaNoWriMo in 2016 for the first time. The result was a first draft of my romance novella (to be published). I joined the movement because I was inspired by all the enthusiasm on Twitter. Also, I wasn't getting much writing done with personal strife.

When Saiswaroopa, author friend I met on Twitter, thought of #MyNoWriMo, I found her enthusiasm contagious and said yes. My latest book, Just me, the Sink & the Pot, is self published and I have been amazed at the support that indie authors provide each other. 

I am taking advantage of that network and attempting my first draft for a children's story that I plotted in mid April. It is like having a gym buddy so that you get your workouts done. I'm going to get my word count running.

Twitter handle: @sudesna_ghosh

Devika Fernando (Last Book: The Prince's Surprise Bride)

I'm a German (and half Sri Lankan) romance novelist with currently more than 10 self-published books. My main focus is contemporary romance on the sweeter side, and I love writing about different countries and ethnicities. 

I recently released my first three royal romances, but during #MyNoWriMo I will be working on a sequel to the 'Forbidden' books, a romantic suspense series I coauthored with Amazon-bestselling author Mike Wells.

I write every day and try to be very disciplined about it, but I love initiatives like NaNoWriMo or #MyNoWriMo where authors get together and motivate each other to strive even harder.

Twitter Handle: @Author_Devika

Ruchi Singh (Last Book: Jugnu) 

#MyNoWriMo has come at the right time for me. I am really excited and looking forward to work in the company of such accomplished writers. 

Unlike my past projects, I have decided to keep things simple this year and concentrate on an unfinished manuscript. The objective for this month is to complete the novella I had started during the November 2015 NaNoWriMo, which was abandoned due to Jugnu, my latest release. 

The focus is on total entertainment folks!

Twitter Handle: @RuchiWriter

Adite Banerjie (Last Book: No Safe Zone) 

Many years ago I had participated in the ScriptFrenzy initiative which used to be a scriptwriting version of the NaNoWriMo. It had been a fun and frenzied month and along with a writer friend I had managed to put down 100 pages of a first draft screenplay.

However I haven't had much luck with NaNoWriMo and despite several attempts November just doesn't seem to work for me. So, just as I had finished plotting the idea for a new manuscript, Sudesna pinged me about #MyNoWriMo. Serendipity, right? So here I am, all raring to go on this new ride!

Twitter Handle: @adite

Vandana Shanker (Last Book: Dust of Ages)

My first books (a non-fiction and a fiction) were published the traditional way. The last novel 'Dust of Ages' was a long one - about 110K words which I published as a series on Amazon. It is a historical set in India during 1857 and self-publishing has been quite satisfactory.

I would most probably be working on a historical again - this time set in the 1890s during the Great Game. But then it seems quite ambitious and I might work on my romance novella in May. But the good thing is writing alongside everyone. 

Twitter Handle: @VandanaShanker

Monday, 3 April 2017

Confessions of a Screenwriter and Filmmaker: Charudutt Acharya

Charudutt Acharya is a film and TV writer who has written two dozen television shows, four films and a web series in a writing career that has spanned 18 years. He has donned the director's hat for his debut film Sonali Cable (which was produced by Rohan Sippy) In this interview, Charudutt shares his journey as a writer for the film and television medium... which has been "full of drama",  just like his writing! 

Over to Charu....

Charudutt Acharya

Hi Charu. Tell us a bit about your journey as a screenwriter. How and when did you start off? And what were the initial years like. 

After my BA from Mumbai University, I did a few odd jobs and got into a film unit as a trainee in the directing department. There some of the technicians were from the FTII and encouraged me to apply. I got in and trained to be a director. 

During my time at the FTII (1993-95) there was no separate screenwriting program, but we were taught screenwriting as part of the directing program. I loved screenwriting as a subject and often collaborated on scripts of fellow students besides my own. Within a year and half of graduating, while I was assisting in direction, I met with a very nasty accident which confined me to bed for a long period of time. 

To pay my bills and kill time, I started writing for a TV drama show. And have been writing since then. So I can say I became a professional writer ‘by accident’.

When did you get your first breakthrough in the screenwriting world? And how did it happen?

As mentioned, I had this accident. One of the persons who came to see me in the hospital was a TV channel executive for whom I had written a few in house promos and was supposed to direct them in that week. Since I would not be able to direct them, he had hired somebody else for that job and offered me a writing gig for a mini –series on his channel. 

I actually wrote the first episode from the hospital. Full drama! 

I went on to write several episodes of that series called D –LINE on Sahara TV.  Since then I have written for around two dozen shows and four films over 18 years.

You have been writing for one of the most popular shows on TV for more than 10 years. How has that experience been? Do you get bored sometimes keeping at it? And how do you find the inspiration to carry on?

For the last seven years, I have been co-writing CRIME PATROL SATARK. I took a break for a year in 2013 when I was making my feature SONALI CABLE.  I mainly write dialogue for the show and occasionally I write the screenplays as well. All our cases are real life cases which our fantastic research team puts together. The series writer and director of the show then expertly crafts out a screenplay (step-outline as the West calls it) and then I dialogue the scenes. 

At times I outline the case too, based on the format set by the series writer. The experience has been fantastic because each case is different and we have explored various cinematic devices, thematic approaches, structural experiments with the show and touch wood, most of it has worked well. Also, the actors and the team out there is one of the most talented and hardworking one. So what one writes, gets translated rather well, making it all come together at the end.

Boredom I have never felt because I constantly feel privileged that I have work to do and work that in its genre and market, is considered good critically and commercially. But yes, it is exhausting work and takes long hours.

I watch movies, spend time with the family and cook something in the kitchen daily as a hobby and de-stressor.

You have written screenplays for Dum Maro Dum, Nautanki Saala! Among others. What would you say is the basic difference between writing for movies and TV serials and which is more challenging? Why? 

I have NOT written the screenplay of Dum Maro Dum. I only wrote the dialogue for that movie. I have written screenplay and dialogue for the horror movie VAASTU SHASTRA and co-wrote both for NAUTANKI SAALA! And wrote my own movie SONALI CABLE.

The basic difference between the two, I would say is selection of the subject. Some stories lend themselves better to serialized story telling where as some stories are best told as stand-alone big screen experiences. Feature film structure and TV drama structure differ. Also cinema generally tends to have lot more cinematic non- verbal storytelling and TV is heavily dependent on dialogue.  

Personally I find writing film more challenging because I have written more TV and don’t get very anxious with it. Film also needs far more economy of writing and expansion of imagination.

You recently wrote a web series on extra marital affairs. Do you think that people are tired of watching TV soaps and are looking at new kinds of content?

I wrote IT’S NOT THAT SIMPLE which plays on VOOT. It’s been well received. I am not sure about people getting tired of watching TV soaps. Mainstream ‘saans bahu’ soaps are primarily watched by women and families in single TV homes. That core audience is YET not watching streaming shows to in LARGE numbers. But of course we are in a state of flux and sub-sets of content and audiences are being constantly formed.  I think there is space for all kinds of content across all kinds of platforms. Well-made stuff that connects with the core target audience and marketed well, with a dash of good luck, will mostly do well.

A lot of filmmakers write their own scripts. But you moved from screenwriting to direction. Did your experience as a screenwriter help you when it came to direction? Why/why not?

Writing and directing are very different skills. It’s a no brainer that you need a good script to make a good movie. But conversely a good script HAS to have a good director to become a good movie.
Having said that, what the inexperienced director in me brought to the table on the project was the script I wrote. So I was able to communicate my ideas and vision to the team better and they helped me bring it to life. Also, being a screenwriter, re-writing, improvisation and such is easier. But yes, I feel, a screenwriter transiting to directing must develop some directing muscles before going on floor. Working with actors is prime among them. Followed by shooting for the edit.

The pitfall of writer-directors in my opinion is, at times, you can fall in love with the material and lose that ruthless objectivity that is required to serve the story.

What's next on the cards?
Besides my regular Crime Patrol work, I have started work on a new feature film script that I hope to direct in 2018.

What's your top three pieces of advice to writers who want to make it in Bollywood as screenwriters?

1.     Learn the craft well. You don’t have to go to formal film school, but there are plenty of books and online resources to learn the craft of screenwriting and film making both. DO NOT ignore learning the basics and more of film making. That is hugely going to help the writing process. Never think, ”Oh I am a writer! I don’t need to know the technical stuff.” You need to know all that makes your writing better. Editing and sound are KEY.

2.     Get a foot into the door in the industry in any capacity. You need to be among people who generate work. You need to know the pulse of these folks. Keep abreast of the broad genres, budgets and kinds of scripts that are getting made. Be ín the moment’ and ín step’. 

3.     Live well. Good life experience and a sound understanding of a cultural milieu,   is both the sponge and the icing on the script cake. 

Thanks so much Charu for your insights into screenwriting. And good luck to you in all your future endeavours.