Monday 21 January 2013

Are you a Hobbyist or a Passionista?

Is Passionista even a word? 
Maybe not. Guess, I just wanted to catch your attention and I’m one of those writers who simply hate it when readers ignore my writing. Some would say that’s the trait of an obsessed person.  I would say it just makes me a person who’s passionate about writing. Just as there are people who are passionate about cars – they can rattle off the names, makes, model numbers and a gazillion other details about every car that ever rolled off the assembly lines since Model T was manufactured. There are those who are passionate about fashion and are walking-talking encyclopedias about the great fashion houses, designers and models. Then there are those who take their passion for sport to stratospheric levels. 
I simply obsess about writing. The obsession has made me troll Internet sites in search of tips and tricks. It has made me spend hard earned money on books about writing, doing writing-related courses. For me, the difference between being a hobbyist and a passionista is the level of obsession that you have for something. How far are you willing to go to become a published author? If your entry in a writing contest were to be rejected would you just throw in the towel (or in this case, the pen) and shrug it off? If you’re one of those who can’t shrug it off but persist in your commitment to becoming a better writer, then you’re a passionista. 
Like Stephanie Meyer, author of the Twilight Series whose book was rejected time and time again. 
Like Stephen King, who received 30 rejections for his first book. 
Like J.K. Rowling who didn’t let single motherhood, depression and rejection come in the way of her pursuing her dream of writing the Harry Potter series.
Like Jack London who got 600 rejection slips but went on to write the hugely popular White Fang and The Call of the Wild
They persisted and persevered and look where their passion got them. But it wasn’t success or fame that mobilised them. It was their passion for writing that kept them going – their love for writing. 
Obsess about your writing. And don’t quit! Be a passionista! 
Happy obsessing! ;) 
Adite Banerjie

Thursday 17 January 2013

Stumbling blocks to the happily ever after...?

When I started writing my first novel I had the story and a lot of the scenes planned and ready to be locked into words but as I moved from chapter to chapter the characters evolved from mere one dimensional figures into someone about whom I knew in depth. They seemed to have a life of their own. Sometimes when I gently nudge them in the direction I want them to go, they don’t. They get there sooner or later after meandering through a couple of bylanes which is very exciting and surprising. Sometime their meandering takes awhile and that makes me impatient and frustrated. 
So what did I learn, you ask ?

  1. The characters should drive the story

When we want to make the story move forward we sometimes make the mistake of letting the plot take center stage. It doesn’t bode well for the character because in simple terms it is the difference between a character doing something of their own accord and a character being coerced to do something. It deprives the character of its natural ability to grow. So the mantra is character- driver seat, plot- back seat.

  1. Point of view
Often we can make the mistake of telling the story only from the point of view of one character which allows the reader to look at only side of the coin. Alternately we can also make the mistake of recounting each scene from the POV of both the characters which can get repetitive and doesn’t allow the reader to read between the lines. Striking a fine balance between the two is crucial.

3) Sustain the interest
The most important part of any story is the emotional connection one establishes with the reader. Despite knowing that the hero and heroine are going to end up together it is important to plant the seed of doubt that they might not be able to work things out. That keeps the readers invested in the story till the end. 
There are other pitfalls that you might encounter along the way but the thrill of penning the last word of the story make it all worthwhile. 

Happy writing!

Writing can be a challenge…or not!

You know, it's hard work to write a book. I can't tell you how many times I really get going on an idea, then my quill breaks. Or I spill ink all over my writing tunic.”
--Ellen DeGeneres
I have been writing for a long time. After all, my one-time day job was that of a journalist. And yet the thought of writing a book filled me with dread. 
Don’t get me wrong, I desperately wanted to write a book. But the very thought of it was, to say the least, daunting! Even though I had a rocking premise. All these wonderful characters (well, at least to me they seemed irresistible!).  And a bunch of ‘terrific’ scenes that were just waiting to tumble out of my head and on to the computer screen. 
Of course, I wouldn’t admit to myself that I was plain scared to sit myself down and start thumping away at the keyboard. So, I came up with a million excuses for not doing it. Trust me, I can be very creative when it comes to cooking up excuses. These are just a sampling: 
  • My heroine is a landscape designer. I don’t know the first thing about it. I have to do a ton of research or else the character will not be authentic!
  • I need to give my dog a bath. I’m going to start tomorrow. Positively.
  • Today? No way! I’ve got to finish my assignment and then there are guests coming over for dinner.  
  • Oh no, I’ve to pay the neighbour a visit. Poor thing has been down with viral.
  • If only I didn’t have to cook dinner. Sigh.  
And so on…Sound familiar? I’m sure it does. And then there are those moments when just as you are about to start writing, you have this compelling urge to check your email, update your Facebook status and/or do a gazillion other stuff that have suddenly acquired earth-shattering, must-do-now urgency. One thing is for sure, if I spent less time making excuses, I’d definitely have been an author (and not just an aspiring one at that!) by now. Or not! 
So when Passions III was announced, I knew I just had to do it. Yet, it was a prospect that I did not relish. For, I not only had to cope with my procrastinating self but also with my fears that I’d be writing crap that had only one place for it – the trash can! 
But as Nora Roberts has so famously said, “You can fix anything but a blank page.” 
If there’s one thing that my years in journalism have trained me for, it’s the ability to meet deadlines. So approaching it like a “deadline-oriented” assignment, I got down to the business of working out the characters, the storyline, and voila, had a 2000-word story ready in less than a week. 
In hindsight, it all seems so simple, right? And believe me, it doesn’t have to be the struggle that we all make it out to be. As I began to write the novel, I worked out a few tips n’ tricks to cheat my procrastinating self. 
  • Writing to a schedule:  Writing a certain number of words every day, five days a week. A mere 100 words per day in the first couple of weeks – and sticking to it, come rain or shine. Bumping it up to 500 words the next and to 1000, a couple of weeks later. In a month’s time, I found that I looked forward to writing every day of the week.
  • Rewarding myself: Every time I met a target – two pages done, a chapter completed – I would reward myself with something that I’d denied myself, maybe that chocolate bar or watch my favourite SRK movie on DVD, or… you get the idea! 
  • Appointing a friend as a Chief Whipcracker: This is for those desperate times when you have to get a whole chunk of chapters ready for the editor and need someone to give you a big nudge and tell you, “c’mon now, you can do it!” And believe me, your friend is bound to take his/her job very seriously! ;) 
I hope you will find some of these tips useful. Or, maybe they’ll inspire you to create your own Cheat Sheet to keep the Procrastinator in you at bay. 
Happy Writing! 
Adite Banerjie

Tuesday 15 January 2013


“It is not what you look at that matters, it is what you see.”
                                                    - Henry David Thoreau

I often find it easier to begin stories than to work them out full length. That's because while I'm struggling to make the plot work, I get a new and even more attractive idea and off I go exploring that. 
What inspires me to write? Well, practically everything. It can be a movie I’ve seen, a book I've been reading in which a particular scene doesn't work for me and there I go thinking if the heroine would just start laughing or pour cold water on the hero right then, it would make this scene so much more interesting. Then I would mentally knit a whole situation over it. 
It could be a random conversation heard in a crowded place. For example, Sunday while out shopping I heard a father chastising a boy that the shine had gone out of his hair because he wasn't taking care of it. It struck me as odd and I began to weave out a character whose father was nitpicking or overly careful maybe even over protective? Get the idea? 
One of the most stimulating sources of inspiration I can think of, is the lyrics from a song. I'm sure I’m getting many head-nods at that. Even the music itself can lead you to a particular mood and make you dream up the next twist in your fiction. 
Or even just looking around and observing can inspire one. I find I could be taking a walk with hubby and see a mulberry tree and my mind would tune out my surroundings to picture the heroine in current WIP on a farm with the hero and he's telling her about all things grown there but with an undercurrent of tension running there. Then I ask myself, why are they there? Caught by what kind of situation? 
I used Hrithik Roshan for hero inspiration for Zaheer Saxena. I'm sure I'm not the only one of aspiring romance/romance authors to do so  
But in daily humdrum of life, there's little time left to use your imagination. One can hardly feel inspired battling with kids who refuse to eat dal (lentils) or hubby getting grumpy looking for his misplaced PAN card. Or when you're running late for work, probably dropping something in the process. Can you? 
Inspiration needs time to simmer and grow into creativity. 
So if you're looking for inspiration for your story, I have these pointers: 
- Think out of the box. Writers already have twisted minds - lol - so this shouldn't be a problem. As my dear author friend Raven McAllan says, "one man's freedom fighter is another one's terrorist." Agree so much with that. Though here, I'm not using the quote in the spirit she means. I say, anyone's bus driver can be another's hero material. If he pulls the vehicle out of a tricky traffic situation and saves people? Why not? Or the girl who keeps your bags at the Mall, doing her job with quiet efficiency and dealing patiently with some annoying customers? Would you base your heroine on her? Again, why not? Take a situation and put your own twist on it. VoilĂ ! You may have a winner.
- Take time to smell the flowers. Allow yourself some seclusion period in a day because imagination needs time and space. Best thing I find for this is a morning walk. The muscles move but the mind is absolutely free to ramble all on its own. 
- Don't cap your imagination. Never dismiss any idea as ludicrous. Anything that comes to you, note it down. You never know where it may lead you. Type or keep notes in a diary. Jot down anything that comes to mind. When you're free, go over these and you'll be surprised at the scenes that spring up in front of you.  
So, think different, enjoy your leisure and keep notes of your ideas. Keep being inspired. It leads to higher energy levels in your day. 
Write with confidence.

Monday 14 January 2013

So, what’s your story about?

Friend: “Hey, congrats. I believe your short story won a prize in the M&B Passions Aspiring Authors Contest!” 
Me: Yeah, it did. Thanks! 
Friend: How cool is that! So, what’s your story about? 
Me: Um…it’s a romance.
Friend: (laughs) Must be. After all, it’s for M&B! But what’s the story?

Believe it or not, this conversation has been repeated plenty of times, and my mind still boggles whenever I’m asked the inevitable question – what’s your story about? 
If you’re anything like me, I suggest you have the answer ready even before it’s asked. Better still, even before you have written the synopsis of the story that you are planning to send off for Passions Contest IV. And I’m guessing, if you’re reading this blog, you at least have the germ of an idea or have already made the decision to participate in the contest. 

Romances are all about boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back, right? Sure, but it’s also about plot – or the events that keep the story alive. The plot is the ‘line’ on which you hang all those delectable moments that you have planned for your readers to ooh-and-aah over: every intimate glance, fight, kiss, heart-wrenching moment till the happy-ever-after ending. 

When I started toying with the idea of entering the “Passions III” contest, I thought back to all the M&B’s that I’d enjoyed reading through the years. Revenge stories have always resonated with me. It’s about emotional conflict as romance flares between the Hero/Heroine even as they grapple over something they need to avenge. And best of all, it lends itself to some nice twists and turns in the story. So, for me, it had to be revenge! Is that psycho or what? ;)

Revenge is just one of the many storylines that have appealed to M&B readers. To mention just a few of the popular ones – marriage of convenience, the love triangle, unwanted pregnancy, damsel in distress, enemies turned lovers, hiding a terrible secret, being forced to spend a few days together, etc. Just think about what resonates with you most. Because if you have loved reading them, chances are high that you’re gonna love writing them too. After all, reading or writing a romance is all about having fun! 

So, when your friend asks you about your story, you could come up with a pithy one-liner like: 
“Oh, it’s about the heroine who wants revenge against the guy who destroyed her family but she falls in love with his impossibly arrogant and handsome son”.  

Have fun, write your story and send it in! Good luck! 

Adite Banerjie

Sunday 13 January 2013

Building a Character.

Last year when I sat down to write the story I wanted to submit to the Passions contest, I was feeling truly nervous. I really wanted to win this contest. So when I had written it a story, for feedback I sent it to my author friend Doris O’Connor. She liked it; it was an amusing story, she said, but quite rightly she pointed out that the hero’s character didn’t come across well. She told me he comes across as a ‘fly by night’. The situation was this: the said hero being sloshed, somehow he brings the tent down around himself and the heroine. Funny? You probably agree. But a good build up of the hero’s character? Do I hear nah? I agree. I put that story away. I sat down to think it over, because I relied on Doris’ opinion and began to wonder: what exactly does make a character? I thought of all the amazing books I’d read and enjoyed. I knew the importance of having a great character in your story. I realized if the character is appealing, the story begins to have promise. HOW to craft that character, was the question. It wasn’t easy. *sigh* It isn’t easy. It’s a learning spiral that’s practically unending. But after a lot of head banging, I did manage to carve out two characters, Vishakha and Zaheer who didn’t just form that story but grew and developed till I wrote a whole book on them.
What I learnt during my struggles with lots of input from author friends and my lovely editor I’m going to sum up here. Your story is centered on the character. In other words it's the character that is going to take your story forward. In Romance genres, there are two main characters, so the story should be about both.

It comes down to three things your character should be:

Your character should be interesting: In my contest-winning story Her Dream Date, the heroine has won a date with a Bollywood star. What girl wouldn’t be excited about that? But she isn’t. She has her reasons for that. A broken engagement behind her. A feeling of betrayal. The thing is, she is being herself and so she is acting out of ordinary. Enough to pique the hero’s curiosity. So rule no. l is: Make your character interesting. Someone who does exciting things.
You must have travelled. Have you ever shared a train berth or a car front with someone with whom time flew and you never knew how you reached your destination?  Your protagonist is going to be the one any reader travels with throughout your story. So make her or him fascinating.  

Your character should be real: Yes, real. As near life-like as you can make her. We aren’t pure and all heart every second of the day. Have your character make mistakes, be disappointed, feel jealous at different times. We all have these kinds of feelings, so don’t make her a holier-than-thou who does everything correctly and never spills a thing on the kitchen counter. (Says one who can’t pour anything right most times. Lol.) She/he should be human.

Your character should be alpha: I know HMB use the term ‘alpha’ for the hero. But what’s wrong with having an alpha heroine as well? Even if your heroine is very submissive, don’t just have her sitting there, waiting for things to happen. Have your characters act. Do something. Not just wait for an avalanche so they can get stranded and then wait for the rescue.  
Hope this helps. 
One thing more to bore you with ;-) when you craft characters in any story, they do have a part of you in them. What they laugh at, why they cry or what makes them angry, will be all your reactions. For example a heroine in one of my works-in-progress loves chocolate. Guess why? 
So always remember: writing characters or writing in essence isn't about others. It's about yourself. 
Your world. Your values. Your fears. Your crazy impulse to do the zombie dance. (ok that's mine. I drive kids mad no end when I do it. Oops! Did I just admit I do it? *hides head under pillow*)
*getting back* At the same time, beware of making your characters a white washed version of yourself. Let them develop and tell their own story. Sometimes it may be different from the one you have been trying to tell. Let them speak. Go where they will. 
To add up, both your hero and heroine should be likeable, flawed BUT alive and happening. 
I hope through this post I've been able to iron out some of your difficulties in crafting characters. If you have any questions, do comment below and I'll try to answer and hopefully help.

Best wishes!

Wednesday 9 January 2013

2013...The year of Dreams coming true!

Hello everyone,

I am so excited that a bright new year has dawned and just like everyone else I hope 2013 brings in truck loads of good fortune. When good stuff happens we always wish the new year keeps the luck going but if the last one wasn’t really upto scratch we hope the tide turns and lady luck smiles upon us.

I’m no different. I always feel a new year is the perfect time to take stock of where we are and where we want to be. A time to reflect on what’s important and what’s not. A time to set goals and move forward with a lot of gusto and hope.

Personally for me, last year was truly incredible. Dreams I never even realized I had came true. After years of dabbling in different stuff I finally figured out what I wanted to do. I wanted to write. And what a start it was! My story was voted by you readers among the top three which was followed by a publication opportunity by Mills and Boon no less. I couldn’t have asked for a better debut.

We sometimes don’t know what we are capable of until we are pushed to do it.After winning the competition, for a while it was very daunting to think I had a whole novel to write. I felt intimidated and it took some time for me to realize I wasn’t getting anywhere just being afraid.

I just had to roll up my sleeves and get down to it. And guess what, before I knew it December was around and my manuscript was ready for print.

So what I’m trying to say is, its alright to be scared but that is not an excuse to not do something that you’ve set your heart upon. Take the leap... There’s no better time than new year to do so. It’s a clean slate... Start charting your destiny.

Best wishes


Tuesday 1 January 2013

The Year of Passions

Happy New Year to you all!

2013 has come in quietly, bathed in the glow of candles lit at India Gate, marking a new beginning but a beginning in which we are all somewhere inside determined to bring about a change.  One only has to go online to see the resolutions so many are taking of giving up apathy towards the societal ills. Maybe this heralds a change which may go deep to the rotting spots in society and cleanse them out. 
Every year has its low moments. New Year becomes a symbol of hope. Whether it’s those diet regimes you’re struggling with, the job you want to change or the book you have been determined to write for the last five years but never got around to, it seems this year will get it done.
So it will. With a little help from your side. *smile*

This last happened to me. I had been thinking of writing but there never seemed to be time. Then one day a light bulb moment made me realise at this rate I would NEVER get around to it. So I made myself write that first page of the story I had going round and round in my head. Then Passions lll happened and Lady Luck smiled. 

In a nutshell, you have to take the chance. Whatever you dream of, and there is something for each one of us. Something we know we need to do, but won’t let ourselves. This year, take the first step, discipline yourself, reschedule your day, and FIND the time to chase your dream.
How many of you have wanted to write that story, the unique idea you got, when you were reading a book and something made you frown and think, if I was writing this, it wouldn’t happen this way...and off you’d go, in the world of your imagination, dreaming up new possibilities. 

So why not take the plunge today?
You yourself don’t know what you’re capable of until you try your limits.
On that note, wishing all of you a very happy and stress-free and flourishing New Year!
A last byte for the prospective Passions contestants, stay tuned for more on what I learnt in writing. Hopefully it will make your contest entry the tiniest bit easier.