Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Monday, August 8, 2011
Now it’s all pretty much sorted out for the next 18 months or so, and I can once again focus on writing some new stuff- and also take a bit of a breather from writing. The total time I devote to writing is roughly 30-45 minutes each day (With a full-time day job and a family, that’s all I want to take away for my writing) and when I’m traveling on work roughly twice a month when I get a flurry of writing done in flights, hotels and airports. It may not sound like much, but if one sticks to it in a disciplined way, it all adds up. 45 mins each day, every day, writing on average 600-750 words a day means I can write more than 250000 words a year (or more since I get much more written on holidays and when I’m traveling)- at roughly 70000 words a novel- that’s three books a year.
That’s the core insight behind this post- about how, as in many things in life- work, relationships, losing weight etc- discipline and perspiration is sometimes more important than one isolated stroke of genius. No idea, no matter how brilliant, counts for much unless a writer can slog away day by day, page by page, to bring it to life in the form of a book. Then of course, comes the perspiration that goes into putting all that inspiration into a masterplan of what gets published when, and by whom. So I’ve spent the last two months polishing off some ongoing novels, and closing open loops on all my projects on hand that will be published for the next 12-18 months. A friend messaged me on Facebook yesterday asking which book of mine was next. To her, and to all of you, here’s the calendar of what you can expect to see.
OND11: Hindustaan, a historical thriller published by Vitasta Publishing. A sneak peek:
Till the 17th century, one superpower accounted for almost a quarter of the world’s income- the same share as the United States today. That superpower was what we know today as India under the Mughal Empire. Years of internal strife, attacks by Afghan raiders and finally conquest by the British led to the decline and destruction of this mighty empire.
But what if India had never been conquered by the British? What if it remained a mighty and prosperous nation under the rule of the Mughal Empire?
A nation known as Hindustaan.
Dilli, 1857. The Mughal Empire is at the peak of its power and is gearing up to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of its victory over the British, an occasion where the popular Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar is widely expected to announce his successor.
The Empire is thrown into sudden chaos when the Emperor is assassinated and a new regime seizes power in a bloody coup.
In this maelstrom, three unlikely companions find themselves thrown together by fate. Ranveer, a young officer in the elite Mughal cavalry, who is now hunted by the very Empire he served; Theo, a rakish English traveller with a mysterious past and Maya, a beautiful and spirited Princess they rescue.
Together, they embark on a series of dramatic adventures across Hindustaan. A journey that takes them from bloody skirmishes with Afghan raiders, rescue missions in remote forts, joining a coalition of rulers who band together against the new despotic regime to protect their independence, and finally back into the heart of Dilli for a dramatic final mission.
The stage is set for a monumental struggle that will decide not just their fate, but that of the whole of Hindustaan.
JFM12: Vimana, a science fiction thriller published by Penguin India. A sneak peek:
'Gods' fought a terrible war in our skies 15,000 years ago. They have returned to finish it.
Ancient texts refer to 'Gods' flying in craft called vimanas and waging war with what sound like nuclear weapons. These accounts are today classified as myth or legend.
What if they turned out to be real?
Vimana is an edge-of your seat sci-fi technothriller about a young college student who stumbles upon an ancient war between good and evil. A war that we thought was merely a part of our ancient myths and legends, but unknown to us, is still being waged everyday in our skies. He discovers his hidden destiny is to join the forces of light in bringing this war to a conclusion. At stake will be the continued existence of the human race.
Star Wars meets Transformers in this exciting new thriller that will keep all science fiction fans satisfied.
AMJ12 (or perhaps earlier): Zombiestan, a thriller published by Severed Press, a cool Australian publisher specializing in horror. A brief summary:
The War on Terror just took a terrifying new turn.
It began with stories of undead Taliban rampaging through Afghan villages, and faster than anyone could have anticipated; the darkness spreads through the world. In a world laid waste by this new terror, four unlikely companions have been thrown together- a seventeen year old boy dealing with the loss of his family, a US Navy SEAL trying to get back home, an aging, lonely writer with nobody to live for, and a young girl trying to keep her three year old brother safe.
When they discover that the smallest amongst them holds the key to removing the scourge that threatens to destroy their world, they begin an epic journey to a rumoured safe zone high in the Himalayas. A journey that will pit them against their own worst fears and the most terrible dangers- both human and undead.
A journey through a wasteland now known as Zombiestan.
In addition to these, there is a non-fiction title which I am about to sign with Random House, which should be released in 2012. Again, it’s early in the process so will share details later.
In case you can’t wait or don’t want to kill any trees by buying the paperbacks when they come our, thanks to the wonders of ebooks, all three titles are already up on the Kindle store (the cool process of e-publishing is huge fun- and the way books are increasingly reaching readers through the web and ebooks deserves another post all of it's own). Just click on the covers below:
So, that’s it- over the next 12-18 months, the perspiration of the last couple of months will see four new books out. Sounds like a lot, but remember the 45 minutes each day add up- that’s the power of perspiration!
Now for a well-deserved (at least I think so) break from writing for a week- when I will polish up my website which is way out of date. Then back to my keyboard- because I do have another flash of inspiration I need to get perspiring on!
Keep reading, and I’ll keep writing.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Saturday, April 9, 2011
One of the genres I love reading is historical fiction, and I have eagerly devoured the works of writers like Conn Iggulden, Bernard Cornwell, Robert Harris and others. Whether it’s the Roman Empire, the exploits of Atilla or Genghis, the World Wars or the Crusades- almost all major historical events and characters in the West have been immortalized and often brought to life for new generations through fiction. That was perhaps why I loved History as a subject in school- if you look beyond it as a collection of dates and events, it helps you get a glimpse of what life and people were like in a totally different age, and good historical fiction helps bring those to life in a way bland statistics and dates can never do.
Given the rich history we have in India, it’s always been a question in my mind as to why we don’t have more books offering fictional accounts of our history or heritage. There are some notable examples like the Great Indian Novel or Empires of the Indus, but by and large many of the most important and interesting aspects of our history are left alone by writers- such as the Mughal Era, the 1857 Revolt, the freedom struggle and so on. Imagine a novel about what actually happened to the Harappan civilization? What would have happened if the British had never conquered India? What if Subhas Chandra Bose had lived? What if the 1857 Revolt had succeeded? All questions that would provide wonderful material for any novelist and would certainly be something I would love to read- but all subjects that, among others, seem to be taboo for Indian writers.
Perhaps it’s to do with the fact that as a people, we have a pretty poor sense of history- and are very quick to consign history or historical figures to the realm of myth or religion. And once you do that, given all the special interest groups in our country, it becomes very difficult to write anything that contradicts or even throws a new fictional light on some of the characters and events we have chosen to deify. So Bernard Cornwell can easily write a novel like The Fort where some of the leading lights of the American Revolution are shown in a less than flattering light, but imagine if an Indian writer were to produce a novel about some of the leaders of our freedom struggle or the 1857 Mutiny. We either seem to get sugar-coated Bollywood fantasy like Mangal Pandey or hagiography, never anything that provokes- and if anyone does try, we have the usual cast of characters calling for book bans and burning.
For the world’s largest democracy, that’s one area where as a reader I find ourselves really lacking in terms of having a true democracy of ideas. And as a writer, I itch to get around to doing something about it. As I write this post, I think perhaps I will. Watch this space….
Keep reading, and I’ll keep writing.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
This is an idea for a thriller.
In the late 1960s, a young Army Officer of 28 joins with like-minded young officers to overthrow the King in their Middle Eastern country. He seeks to establish a modern republic in the place of the corrupt and archaic monarchy. The British Secret Intelligence Service organizes a plan to depose this new leader by using a group of mercenaries and ex-SAS soldiers but at the last minute, the US Government asks them to back down, since they feel that this new, young leader is someone they can work with to act as a counterfoil to Soviet ambitions in the Middle East.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, and it is but a matter of time before this young leader transforms into a despot. He surrounds himself with cronies, amasses great wealth, and starts harbouring delusions of global influence and power. With no checks and balances to rein him in, he starts supporting terror groups around the world, including a bizarre plan to train Australian Aborigines to wage a war of terror against the Australian government. In general, his behaviour does not win him too many friends and the same US Government which had let him stay in power now finds itself on a collision course with this dictator. There are several skirmishes in the sea off the coast of this country, and after this leader is found guilty of sponsoring deadly terror attacks against US interests, the
With the world changed after the collapse of the
An uprising in his country and his brutal crackdown on civilians suddenly brings him to a collision course with the West again, and the US and NATO decide to support the rebels and start an air campaign against his forces. In a twist of fate, one of the leaders of the rebels fighting under Western air cover is a member of Al Qaeda who has spent time at
If I were to send this to a publisher as the synopsis of a new novel, they would most likely laugh at me and reject it- calling it too convoluted and with too many implausible plot twists. However, this is not something I’ve conjured up in my imagination- this is the true story of Gaddafi and his love-hate relationship with the West. You won’t get this story from a Tom Clancy or Frederick Forsyth thriller, you just need to turn on CNN. When reality is as screwed up and convoluted as this, I wonder what fiction writers can possibly bring to the table?
Keep reading, and I’ll keep writing,
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
First of all, a disclaimer that I mean no disrespect to James Fenimore Cooper’s classic. The Last of the Mohicans was one my favourite novels when I first read it more than 20 years ago, and even today, that same well worn copy occupies pride of place on my bookshelf. However, as I was drudging through editing my latest book, my mind wandered and I reminded myself to pay attention and thank God for what I have today- spell checks, auto-corrections and Find & Replace. Mr. Cooper had none of those, and a single substituted letter could have given a whole new dimension to his novel. To be honest, it may have made it even more likely for me as a fourteen year old boy to pick it up, but I doubt it would have enjoyed the stature it enjoys today (then again, you never know!).
Back to the point- editing.
When non-writers think of writing, they think it’s a lot of creative joy and then the glory of seeing books in print and on bookshelves. They totally miss a critical, and at least for me, not a very fun part of it- editing. That’s when you re-read every single word a few times over, discover all the places you screwed up, learn that you somehow changed a character’s name mid-way through the creative haze (am being charitable- I just couldn’t make head or tale of my handwritten notes), and realize that when you thought you were on a roll, your grammar was worse than a Grade 1 dropout. Okay, am being harsh, but for someone who loves the creative part of writing, and like any other writer, loves enjoying the end result, the editing process is a bit of drudge. Having worked in the corporate sector for over 15 years, I keep reminding myself that I don’t have to enjoy something to have to do it well. A poorly edited book, no matter how brilliant the idea is a bit like producing a shampoo bottle with a brilliant product inside but a cap that falls off the moment you touch it and the brand name spelt wrongly. If that’s a bizarre analogy, cut me some slack- I worked on Hair Care for 13 years! So it has to be done, and this is how I have learnt over the years to make peace with the editing process:
Make it real
The first thing I do when I finish a draft of a book is to print it out, staple the pages together and slap a cover on it. Usually a horrible hand drawn cover (and believe me, I can’t draw). What that does is that at one stroke it transforms a correction process on a laptop screen to the first time I hold `my book’ in my hand. That works wonders for motivation.
Get a trusted second opinion
I don’t know about other writers, but I love what I write. My reasoning is simple, if I don’t believe in and love what I do, why should even a single reader believe in me enough to pay good money to read my work? But what that means is that I may be blind to all the times I do screw up, and again, like all writers and their first drafts, those exist galore. So what I do when I finish my first draft is that I run it by my wife. She’s not a writer or an editor, but a voracious reader, and someone I can trust totally to be both brutally honest and amazingly supportive all at the same time. So that becomes not just an editing exercise, but a cross between editing and market research. It helps me uncover misses, and also sometimes points me in directions I may not have thought of. Most of all, it makes editing fun- since I am sharing my labour of love with the person I trust most.
Put some distance between us
I do get so immersed in my books sometimes that I dream of plot lines and twists and wake up itching to write it down. The downside of being so immersed in something is that you lose objectivity and find it hard to look at your work dispassionately. So after the first edit, I take a break of a couple of weeks. I read a lot of classics in the genre I’m writing, I start scribbling ideas for my next book, and only then do I get back to a second round of editing with a fresh mind.
I was about to press `Post’ and then I stopped myself and edited what I’d written once before posting it. You know what they say about old habits….
Keep reading, and I’ll keep writing.