Author Resource: Canva

Canva, everyone’s, DIY design tool, is an Australian online design platform. It is designed for anyone, designer or not.  The seamless design opportunity is made possible with an extensive image library, readymade templates, photo filters and a huge number of fonts. You can also share your work with your team or post it directly on social media.

There are two versions- free and paid if you opt for Canva’s Magic Resize tool.

Solutions Canva Provides

  • If you are struggling with design, you may want to consider a more easy-to-use design platform.
  • When you are stuck at various points in the design process, be it sourcing images, resizing an existing design, sourcing a variety of free fonts, Canva provides a variety of options.
  • Is the pricing of design options freaking you out? Even if you don’t hire a designer, you can use Canva on your own and instantly design posters, presentations and social media headers.

How to Use it

  • Sign up.
  • Scroll through the design templates on offer. You can also custom size the design.
  • The template box opens and you can choose the design, change the background, upload images, use existing images (free or paid) and shapes from the left-hand side. There are additional options to add music, emojis, maps and QR codes.
  • Once the design is ready, you can share or download the design in different formats.

Recommended or Not?

Highly recommended.

Author Resource: Hemingway Editor

Ernest Hemingway, the Nobel Prize-winning American writer, is famous for his writing efficiency. “To be successful in writing, use short sentences,” he said. The Hemingway app is based on this premise.


Solutions Hemingway Editor Provides

If you’ve been advised to write like Hemingway, it’s one way of telling you that your sentences are too clunky and could use some trimming.
Keeping the desirable quality of the brevity of Hemingway’s writing in mind, Adam and Ben Long developed a writing app that grades the readability of your writing from 1-15. The lower the rank, the clearer your writing.

How to Use it

The Hemingway Editor is very easy to use. You can paste or type text into it. The app uses color-coding to convey how complicated the sentence is. For instance, if there is a red highlight, the sentence is dense and it would be a good idea to work on it. A purple highlight indicates that a longer word can be replaced by a shorter one. A formatting toolbar is also provided.

In this example, the highlights focus on adverbs and the use of passive voice. Readability is also graded. You can use this app to assess your own content. A few tweaks based on the suggestions provided can clean up your copy.

Recommended or Not?

Highly recommended tool.

Author Resource: Cliché Finder

In the Author Resources series, we explore the different author tools at our disposal. Be it editing, formatting or designing your cover, there are quite a few options that you can explore online. Today we look at the Cliché Finder.

Problems the Cliché Finder Addresses

Clichés are stale and overused phrases or expressions that are best avoided in the original copy. Some examples of clichés in sentences are:

When he told her he wanted to touch base, she was walking on air.

The apple has fallen far from the tree,” he said to her disapprovingly after examining her portfolio.

She was doomed to disappointment when he compared her to her twin brother.

The phrases highlighted above are not wrong at all. For instance, the phrase ‘touch base’ seems professional and is commonly used when you want to encourage someone to contact you. But if you write a blog post, memo or email with a huge number of clichés, it could make your language sound unoriginal.

While it is impossible to avoid all clichés, being aware of the number of clichés used helps. This is where a tool like Cliche Finder is useful. It uses an algorithm to analyze the clichéd phrases, words or expressions used in the text you provide and also highlights alternate words you could use.

How to Use it

You paste the text into a box and submit.

Once you click the Find Clichés button, you get a list of clichés Now you can rephrase your copy as advised.

Recommended or Not?

Recommended. This is a useful editorial tool and throws light on (whoops! cliché that) avoidable phrases though you need not agree with all the suggestions and choose to adopt as you see fit.

5 Success Tips for Non-fiction Authors

writing pencil creative light technology thinking web symbol bulb office business paper lightbulb energy education font power art sketch drawing creativity design vision strategy inspiration plan organ calligraphy information idea imagination intelligence success innovation invention brainstorming

Source: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/714869

Non-fiction is a genre that, despite its wildly successful nature, rarely gets the props it deserves in popular culture. Non-fiction is often seen as being dry and boring, but nothing could be further from the truth. And the sales speak for themselves – well-written educational books, textbooks and self-help books fly off the shelves. Unlike in fiction, where an author has to work extra hard to narrate a story that hasn’t already been told in some form, the topics and subtopics that can be covered under non-fiction are practically limitless. 

But having something important and informational to convey about a topic is only the first step. Here are five things you can do to increase the chances of success for your book:

 

  1. Tell a Story to Spread an Idea

    Remember, just because you’re not writing fiction doesn’t mean you can’t tell a story. Readers are always drawn to an interesting narrative, and you can use it to break down a complex topic and make it more accessible to readers.Ensure that the writing style is engaging and concise. Set out information in a way that is easy to read and remember. The use of visual aids such as tables, side bars, and bullet points will come in handy.
  2. Cite and Refer Generously 

    Be sure to include plenty of references to other works on the same subject. This way the reader gets to benefit not only from your expertise, but also from the work of other authors in the same field. Citations and references also boost the author’s credibility, increasing the reader’s confidence in the author’s knowledge.
  3. Nurture the Community

    An active presence in the community, both online as well as offline, is the most important asset for promoting your book. One of the ways you can get started is to read and review other books in the same genre you write in. Make sure to tag authors when you post the reviews publicly.You can also conduct discussions on the subject. Organize Ask Me Anything sessions on sites like Quora. This will reinforce your credibility with regards to your subject and boost the visibility of your work among your audience. Remember, a rising tide lifts all boats!
  4. Present it Well

    Unlike a fiction book, bad presentation can kill a non-fiction title. Typeset the book professionally to ensure that your visual elements and textual information are placed together neatly. Well-spaced books with a moderate amount of white space are easier to read. Ensure that standard fonts that promote readability are used. 
  5. Take your Book Out for a Test-Drive!

    Feedback from the intended audience is critical, and wouldn’t it be great if you could get it before your book is published?! 

    Find a small circle of people who fit the demographic you are writing for – students, professionals, hobbyists, etc. and release the early drafts of the chapters of your book to them, for free. Your beta-readers benefit from information about a topic they’re interested in, and you get valuable information on how to optimize your book’s potential! You can find interested readers among bloggers, and on social sites like Twitter and Instagram.Above all, your book is a labor of love. And with non-fiction books, the reward tends to be proportional to the effort, so spare no effort, and pour your soul into your work.

Interview: Douglas Misquita

We spoke to the author Douglas Misquita. He has a lot of tips for aspiring writers of thrillers and series.

Author photo by Shonna Misquita

Douglas Misquita is an action-adventure thriller writer from Mumbai, India. His books are noted for their fast pace, great visuals and edge-of-the-seat action. The Immortality Trigger won the Silver Award at the Literary Titan. Douglas has written six thrillers, and with three more in the works, buckle up for more literary entertainment.

Find out more at www.douglasmisquita.com

Read the reviews at www.douglasmisquita.com/reviews

Follow Douglas on www.facebook.com/douglasmisquitabooks, www.goodreads.com/douglasmisquita, www.twitter.com/douglasmisquita,

How do you research your books?

My research never stops. I’m always looking for ideas that might form the central theme of a story. At some point, I believe I have enough to begin writing. But if I encounter something exciting during the writing process, I’ll do my best to fit it in and add another dimension to the story.

A couple of examples:

If my characters need to go someplace exotic or serene or scenic, I’ll research a town or village. Other times, I research to hoist me out of a plot-blocker. In The Apocalypse Trigger, my characters required to break into an isolated research facility. I made the facility so impregnable, I couldn’t get them in! That’s when I excitedly discovered that ‘invisibility cloaks’ are no longer in the realm of fantasy. Problem solved! It also made for a super element.

Another aspect of my preparation is the action sequences. I imagine an action sequence and figure out how it would fit into a story, and what that story could be.

I read somewhere that your favorite writer is Michael Crichton. What kind of influences of Crichton can we watch out for in your work?

Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park inspired me to write. My first book was handwritten (with only two errors) on a 100-page single-ruled school exercise book at age 13. I borrowed heavily from Jurassic Park, but that’s when it started.

Crichton is the master of techno-thrillers and he always educated his readers. That’s what I try to do.

My stories are action-adventure thrillers but they must educate too. Secret of the Scribe predicts brain-computer interfaces and how nefarious organizations might use them. The technology is now at our doorstep with researchers able to transmit brain waves across countries!

The Apocalypse Trigger debunks preconceptions about Wiccans (witches), brings to light arrogant wagers played by elitists on natural calamities and explores the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia.

Diablo deals with radio-controlled gene expression and takes readers on a tour of Baikonur Cosmodrome. Importantly, it traces the plight of migrants coming out of North Africa and making for Malta.

The Immortality Trigger confronts the reality of the anti-aging (read beauty-cosmetic) industry, Nazi hunters, and blood-mining in Africa.

Lion makes people think twice before classifying a country or a person as good or bad. Oh, and you could learn how to start a Mil24D gunship if you read Lion (I’m almost kidding).

Tell us about your latest book.

Lion is my sixth thriller. I decided to take a risk with the lead character: an unconventional hero, from an unlikely country, Syria. My hero would be a stereotypical ‘bad’ guy and readers would root for him! I wanted to bring the war alive, from a non-NATO perspective. The book is a fictionalized account of a Syrian political fugitive and the people closest to him, and how their lives are disrupted because they want to do the right thing amid all the chaos.

Another topic I tackle is mercenaries. Movies give us the impression that mercenaries are rogue soldiers. Really, they aren’t. Simply put, they are regular salary-earning employees who use weapons and combat skills to do a job, which could be providing security to NGOs in conflict zones or raising armies. Sure, they operate outside the ambit of the conventional war, but they sign a raw deal. No country will fight for them or honor them if they’re captured or killed doing things the regular army cannot.

Finally, I put in a spectacular prison break because it’s something I love. Who doesn’t love a prison break?

Which book did you enjoy writing the most and why?

Every book is rewarding during the writing process. Otherwise, I scrap it and take it in another direction. Sorry, that’s a curt answer, but it’s the truth.

Tell us about your experience with self-publishing.

To me, self-publishing is liberating and rewarding. Traditional publishing is great, but the big houses are companies that need to make a profit. They have a strategy which outlines the genres they will publish. And I give them that.

But why should anybody wait for somebody else to decide what’s good or bad? What if I have a story that I truly believe in and/or desire reader critique? Let the reader decide! That’s the ultimate proof of a good book, correct?

Earlier this was impossible, and a great writer could go undiscovered, his/her dreams unrealized. With self-publishing, barriers are reduced. I think the big houses are aware of this. That’s why you have them scouring the Internet for the next big thing.

So yes: liberating, rewarding, and self-adjusting.

At this point I should say, I use Pothi.com to print paperback and hardcover versions of my books. The team has been supportive and responsive. I use draft2digital.com for eBook distribution.

What do you do when you don’t write? 

I work as a software delivery manager.

Some advice for aspiring writers of thrillers.

Write the thriller you would enjoy reading. I write action and adventure with doses of history and science/ tech because that’s the stuff I understand and do best. I’d do horribly with romance or fantasy or hard-core medicine or politics.

 

Some advice for authors of a book series.

Don’t conclude everything in a single book. This gives you an opportunity to explore a plotline in successive books. Each book must enhance the characters (as they are the only constant in the series). Select your characters well so that you can re-use them to address a wide range of topics.

What advice do you have to give to authors who are struggling with promoting their books?

There are numerous review sites and promotion packages on the Internet. You must identify the good ones, the ones you’re ready to spend on. Try to diversify the reviewers, take a risk with the ‘scary’ ones. With so many self-publishing and promotion sites, every author is clamoring to be heard, and you may or may not stand out immediately. But don’t be too bothered with it. After all, write because you want to write. So: do your marketing bit and get cracking on the next book. When you get more books out there, people will start to notice. And yes, they look great stacking up. Stay away from Facebook ads; Goodreads giveaways are nice. Check out sites like literarytitan.com, bestthrillers.com, bookbub.com to get you started.

Do movies inspire you?

Absolutely. I write books from the viewpoint of a camera. That gives my readers the experience of a large-scale action movie… unfolding across the pages of a book

Tell us about your next project.

Next up, in 2020 is the third book in the Kirk Ingram trilogy. It is mind-blowing. I know because I was jumping up and down (figuratively) when I had the theme of the story in an epiphany. Let’s say, its super-charged, bends reality, and ties up aspects of the character that debuted in 2011 and returned in 2015.

Was great talking with you, Douglas! Wish you all the best for future projects.

 

Writing Competitions and Opportunities (Free to Enter) Round-Up: July 2017 Edition

From time to time, we’ll be doing round-ups of competitions that are free to enter and that Indian writers are eligible to participate in. This is our first list for 2017.

1. TOI Write India Season 2 Contest 2017: Times of India

Write India is a Short Story Contest initiative by Times Internet that offers prompts from 11 of India’s top-selling authors.  Every month a winner is selected from the entries received with the help of the ‘Celebrity Author of the Month’. Please go through the faqs in detail. A book will be published with all the top winning entries.  The competition starts on the 7th of every month till the 30th of the month.

2. James Hemingway Short Fiction Award-2017

James Hemingway is one of the first publishing imprints under the umbrella of Shreem Info Media. SIM Publishing has launched a short fiction prize aimed at finding genuine Indian voices. The award is open to stories written in both English and Hindi languages. Previously published stories are welcome too.  The first prize winner will get a fixed cash award (to be announced) along with the submitted entry published in a book on the theme with other nominations and released worldwide. Twenty-one best stories will be nominated for the award. These twenty-one stories will be published in the book form by SIM publishing and launched worldwide. All nominated stories will be translated into English(if Hindi stories are selected). This year’s theme is ‘Delhi’. Deadline is at midnight 22nd July 2017. There is a late fee of INR 250 for all submissions after the deadline. The word limit for Hindi is 4500 and for English is 3500. Please go through the rules on the website.

3. Monsoon – My Article Contest

Looking for write-ups on Monsoon memory, recipes, etc. Email write-up at halfsamosa@99colours.com with your full name. Mention the contest category(mentioned in the link) and a title for your write-up. Your write- up should be at least 300 words long and it should be in MS Word only.You can send more than one article. Contest closes on 31st July 2017. The winners will be judged on the basis of Facebook likes (50%) and on the quality of the write-up/entry (50%). The winner will be announced by email on 10th August 2017. The best two winners will be awarded Flipkart gift vouchers of Rs. 500/- each. Articles will be accepted in both English and Bengali.

4. The Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction

Comma Press and the University of Central Lancashire have announced the first annual Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction. The theme for this inaugural year will be ‘Café Stories’, in honor of Dinesh’s Café Shorts series which he posted on his blog. He believed cafes to be “fertile ground for the short story.” The prize is open to anyone 18 years or over, and the story you submit must not have been published anywhere else, online or in print. It is free to submit your entry, but only one per writer. All entries will be made anonymous upon receipt. Entries will be made anonymous upon receipt and will remain so until after the shortlist has been decided. Entries open 10th May 2017 and close 31st October 2017. All entries must include a cover letter which states the author’s name, address, email, contact number, and story title. Any entries sent without this information will not be considered. You must submit your story both electronically and in hard copy form. Please send your story entry and cover letter electronically to commaprizes@gmail.com in the form of a Word Doc, then send a hard copy of your story to Becky Harrison, Comma Press, Studio 510a, Hope Mill, 113 Pollard Street, Manchester, M4 7JA. The winning writer will receive £500 and all 10 shortlisted authors will be featured in an ebook anthology which will be published by Comma Press and sold online.

Please go through the rules on the website.

5. Futurescapes-Writing Contest

FutureScapes is an annual writing competition that asks writers to envision a particular future and tell its story. For 2017, the Futurescapes Contest theme is “Blue Sky Cities.” Contest winners will be published alongside multiple professional authors including Paolo Bacigalupi. There is an entry fee for second entry; first entry is free. The winner receives $2000 and five runners-up receive $500 each. Professional authors are not eligible to enter. Contest deadline is October 13, 2017. Check the rules in detail on the website.

6. Wordweavers Contest 

This is the 8th year of the Wordweavers Contest. All submissions for a single category should be copy pasted in the entry form along with the address details. The deadline for poetry (2-100 lines) and short story (5000 words) is August 15th, 2017. The entrant should be above 16 and a citizen of India. Entries should not have been previously published. Go through the details rules here.

 

Disclaimer:  The above-mentioned competitions and opportunities should not be treated as recommendations, but only information. The reader should verify the quality and suitability of each before submitting.

 

 

 

 

Creative Writing Courses and Workshops in India

There are many opinions about creative writing courses. Does a real writer need a course at all? The argument goes that if engineering students can study engineering and artists can study art, then why not writing? A course in writing could open a student’s eyes to the fundamentals of plot, dialog, characterization and themes. Talking to fellow writers expands horizons and critiques can help your work at times. Though the final judgement of the work is yours and your editor’s, talking about writing can put you in a zone that will help nurture your writerly instincts.

Here are some Creative Writing Courses available in India. Some of these courses are additional papers as part of a literature course (it’s a good idea to know literature before you embark on the career of writer, though it is far from necessary). Some are diplomas and others workshops.

British Council

The Introduction to Creative Writing Course at the British Council in Delhi and Kolkata deals with how to write fiction, short stories, poetry, screenplays, travel writing, etc.

More details here: https://www.britishcouncil.in/english/courses-adults/creative-writing

Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts

SSLA offers a creative writing course. The course structure includes a reading list and students are encouraged to express themselves with confidence.

More details here: http://www.ssla.edu.in/academics/courses/9-course-outlines/120-creative-writing

Symbiosis Centre for Distance Learning

This Symbiosis Centre offers a Diploma in Creative Writing in English program. The course curriculum deals with writing in different genres and could be a stepping stone for those who wish to get into journalism and mass media communication.

More details here:http://www.scdl.net/distance-learning-diploma-in-creative-writing-in-english.aspx

Jawaharlal Nehru University

JNU offers a creative writing course as part of their post-graduate program in literature:

More details here: http://www.jnu.ac.in/SLLCS/CES/MACourses.asp

Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Jawaharlal Nehru Academy of Languages

The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan offers a creative writing course which includes writing scripts, screenplays, dialogs, commercial.etc.

More details here:  https://www.bvbdelhi.org/jawahar_academy/jawahar_lang.html

 

Creative Writing Workshops:

Workshops are mostly for writers who are working on their books or for people who want a critique of their work. There are a couple of workshops in India.

UEA India in partnership with the British Council, Caravan magazine, and the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet

The University of East Anglia has been holding workshops in India since 2013. The workshop is led by the award- winning writer Amit Chaudhuri. This year he was joined by the Booker shortlisted writer Romesh Gunesekara.

More details here: https://www.uea.ac.uk/literature/creative-writing/creative-writing-india-workshop

Bangalore Writers Workshop (BWW)

The BWW provides an intense writing and critiquing experience. Anyone above the age of eighteen can apply. Bangalore Writers Workshop (BWW) was founded by Bhumika Anand and Rheea Mukherjee in December 2011.

More details here: http://www.bangalorewriters.com/

There are other workshops like The Dum Pukht Fiction Workshop in Pondicherry but you may have to wait before they announce if they are holding a workshop in 2017.

More details here: http://dumpukht.org/

 

Disclaimer:  The above-mentioned courses should not be treated as recommendations, but only information. The reader should verify the quality and suitability of the courses before enrolling in one.

The Art of Rewriting

You may have written a book. That is hard enough, but what do you think about rewriting? The very idea of rewriting a manuscript that you may have spent months or even years on daunting. But the truth of the matter is that writing is sometimes synonymous with rewriting.

Let’s look at what some great writers have had to say about rewriting:

Hemingway: The only kind of writing is rewriting.

Toni Morrison: I rewrite a lot, over and over again, so that it looks like I never did. I try to make it look like I never touched it, and that it takes a lot of time and lot of sweat.

Vladimir Nabokov: I have rewritten — often several times — every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.

There are many ways you can make that manuscript shine. You could write the first draft and then rewrite it. Or you could work on detailed character and plot outlines. Another way of rewriting is to write bits and pieces of the story and then go back to those sections and rewrite it until the pieces gel.

What you could do is maybe hand in a chapter or two of your manuscript to a trusted beta reader or preferably an expert- a writing teacher or a knowledgeable reader- and get their feedback. This helps you when you are trying to find a direction for your first or second draft. Many times, we think our story is complete but it takes a fresh pair of eyes to catch a character mismatch or inconsistency in plotting. This helps for a smoother and more meaningful rewrite.

When you rewrite, make sure that you keep the overall plot idea consistent. If you go way off tangent, then you may end up writing a different book altogether. Keep targets. No amount of polishing is going to be enough but there has to be a time to stop.

What’s your experience rewriting? Tell us.

Links about Rewriting:

How to Rewrite

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-art-of-writing-is-in-the-rewriting

Six Rules for Rewriting

loop rewrite

How to Write Characters

If you have a single good character that could be the driving force of your story. So how do you create a good character?

First think of the characters you admire. They could be characters you have watched on TV or read about in books.  They could be characters in novels you have read or epics and folklore you have read and heard as a child. They could be the people you have met in your life time or people you have invented from scratch.

A character has certain physical traits. You must have learned how to write a character sketch in school when you had to learn how to use your adjectives. So you already know that your character has physical traits, facial expression, specific voice, etc. Some writers create a list of characters and outline all their characteristics before they begin writing.

Before you design your character, you have to know the genre of the book you are writing. If the book is a fantasy, you can be more adventurous about your characters- they could fly or change shape, but if your book is set in a middle class suburb in Bangalore, the characters need to look like contemporary Bangaloreans.

There is no limit on the number of characters you can have, though it is sensible to have as many characters as you can be true to. The Mahabharata is successful inspire of the enormous number of characters that take the stage. If you know how to bring out specific traits for each character successfully and if your character has an important role, not to mention a nice-sounding name, he will steal the show. Even after so many centuries Shakuni is a character that every Indian who has some knowledge of the Mahabharata can talk about.

So why do we remember Shakuni? Because of his wily ways and fondness of deception and trickery. We know this about Shakuni more by what he does than what he says. When you write a character, you do not say that the man was deceptive and fraudulent; you show how he makes fools of others and this action becomes part of the plot as well.

Who is your favorite character of all time?

Some more links on how to write characters effectively:

http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/create-characters.htmlhttp://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/10/01/characters/http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/write-first-chapter-get-started/hooked-on-a-feeling

How to Write Dialogue

Good fiction is 30% dialogue. So how do write good dialogue?

Listen

To write a good dialogue, you need to be a good listener. Haven’t you seen the artist with his sketch pad who sits at a café and sketches people as they come and go? A writer can also jot down interesting conversations in her notebook when she is at a café or at a park. Eavesdropping is good! Watch plays and watch movies to understand contemporary lingo and how dialogues can sound natural.

Punctuate

Dialogues need punctuation. You start and end the dialogue with double inverted commas.

So, the dialogue can be,

“Stop eating my brains, Mom!” she said in a feverish voice.

or

“The fish jumped out of the glass bowl,” the child said with tears in his eyes.

Note that the comma is placed inside the inverted commas.

When you use an em-dash, it means that the conversation has been cut off.

“I swear I saw her yesterday night but—”

Be Honest

Dialogue is not so polite and well-trimmed. So a good writer would use profanities without hesitation and if the situation requires it.

Tag your dialogue

Who is saying what? If you have multiple dialogues in your story, it makes sense to mention who said what, each time; otherwise the reader could get confused and lose track.

Read Aloud

Read your dialogues aloud. That’s the best way to test if they work or not.

Avoid Dialect

Unless you have the proficiency of a writer like Alice Walker or Manohar Shyam Joshi, avoid dialects as far as possible. To be able to write in dialect, you have to know it very well yourself. In his Hindi book, Kuru Kuru Swaha, Joshi writes in as many as six dialects of Hindi. You can pull off such a feat only if you know what you are doing.

Some links to help you write good dialogues:

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/keep-it-simple-keys-to-realistic-dialogue-part-i

http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/how-to-write-dialogue

http://www.sfwriter.com/ow08.htm