I am writing the conclusion to my Land of Magadha trilogy. Though it is hard to say goodbye to these beloved characters, the story is approaching the ending I had envisioned from the beginning.
This is when I have the most fun. Writing my story. Making my characters fall in love, despair, or rage. I have a rough outline for the tale, but I have already taken some detours. Sometimes, my characters surprise me with their fear, jealousy, or tenderness.
How many books do you write a year? That is a question many authors get. Or a variation of it, like, when is your next book coming out?
It took me five years to write my first book, Heir to Malla. I had stories running in my head. But it took time to take the images in my head and translate them to words on a page. I stumbled, made mistakes, changed my beginning.
My second book, War of the Three Kings, took a year to write and publish. I have learned how to plot a book chapter by chapter. With an outline, my task became easier. Words flowed naturally, and there were fewer revisions.
Along the way, I found my pace. One book a year is one I can consistently meet without sacrificing my family time or other commitments.
Some authors publish one book a month. Hats off to them. Others take three years to write their masterpiece. There is no right or wrong answer here.
As writers, it is vital to find a schedule that works for us without impacting our mental or physical health. And still, produce great books that bring joy or excitement or passion to our reader’s hearts.
Evil stepmothers abound in fairy tales and mythology. Most of us grew up with stories about Cinderella’s stepmother who jeopardized Cinderalla’s chance for happiness. A common trope has been to pit a stepmother against her stepdaughter. When viewed through a modern lens, we realize that these stories depict the lack of female power and how their livelihood depends on the men in their lives. It is no wonder these women are typically battling for a man’s attention.
In Indian mythology, Queen Kaikeyi in Ramayana is the catalyst for the epic. She banishes her stepson, Rama, to the forest for fourteen years and sets in motion the quest for Sita. Her crime is wanting the throne for her birth son. Her desire paints her in a dark light compared to the sacrifice of noble Rama.
For a good stepmother, you need to turn to Mrs.Dashwood in Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Here, the stepson wrongs the stepmother by his greed.
Coming to my books, you catch a glimpse of Queen Charu in the prequel Novella. She is not an evil stepmother. Nor is she a saint. She is misguided, complex, and human.
Her chapter Queen of Malla in Heir to Malla is one of my favorite. It is a quiet chapter of a mother sharing her story with her daughter. Her words reveal so much about the place and agency of women in those times.
Most of us have heard the saying: Practice makes perfect. In the case of authors, writing does make us better. But what if we are practicing something wrong. Then we carry those bad habits from book to book. How do we improve our craft without relying on our editors to come and save the day?
Luckily there are several different ways.
We can read novels by other authors. This is my favorite option because I love to read. I have read 24 books so far this year. Reading helps us see how other authors structure their stories. Sometimes, I am too caught up in the narration to pause and observe the style. Which is not a bad thing.
You can also attend writer’s conferences or take courses. I have attended a local writer’s conference in the past and hope to take part in one next year when the world returns to normal.
In the meantime, I have been reading a few books on writing. While there is no magic wand, each book I have read has expanded my horizon. You can check out the writing books I have read here.
My most recent book is Characters & Viewpoints. This book is written in an easy-to-read style while imparting a lot of knowledge. I enjoyed the writing samples sprinkled throughout the book that conveyed information more readily. For my Land of Magadha series, I choose first-person POV because a few fantasies I had read used it. This book discussed all the different POV options and its merits. I might use third-person limited POV for my next series based on what I learned here. I recommend this book for aspiring writers and current writers.
This past week, I celebrated a book birthday. I published my debut novel Heir to Malla a year ago. Just two months into the pandemic and new life of masks and lockdowns, I shared the story I had been working on for over five years.
A year later, I have realized how many mistakes I made. I had no marketing plan, no newsletter, and no beta readers. I launched the book into the wild with no clue. Since then, I have joined writing groups on Facebook and learned many things from experienced authors.
I have found a beta reader or two among my avid readers. I will be releasing Prince in Shadow, an Heir to Malla prequel novella, exclusively to my Newsletter subscribers.
For my second book, War of the Three Kings, I have a simple marketing plan, mainly focused on building my newsletter subscription, sales promo for Heir to Malla, and one or two third-party newsletter promotions. I will share more details after the launch.
This journey is a marathon, and I am grateful to my readers for letting me share the stories in my head.
Readers want original content. They want something new, unique, and never before told story.
As writers, one might feel like there is nothing new under the sun. Fantasy and Science Fiction genres offer some room for novel ideas. A story set in a galaxy far, far away captures our imagination. Or a complex magical system piques our senses.
What shall a historical fiction author do? Conflict of the heart is what I like to explore. In this society, plenty of ways to put my characters in situations where they have to choose between love and duty, the eternal conflict.
I use distinct metaphors to set the stage for the period (a pumpkin flower that wilted on its stalk). My female characters dress in vivid color saris (ripe mango).
Like your favorite bowl of comfort food, familiarity is also soothing. A romance reader craves a happily ever after ending. My books offer hope amidst the chaos.
A good book touches the human heart, and if mine stirred yours, I have achieved my goal.
Like many adults, I read a fair share of non-fiction books. Topics range from self-help, philosophy, and history to gardening and cookbooks. Many adults stop reading fiction after the high school days of forced reading. With our busy lives, why read fiction?
Humans have told stories for millennia, and we started telling stories as soon as we had language. Oral storytelling is how many cultures passed on their ancient myths and legends. Fiction builds on this tradition.
Reading fiction builds empathy. Our imagination translates the words in a book. As a reader, we picture the world, taste the five-course meal, smell the forest floor and feel the character’s pain. We can read about distant lands and cultures and fall in love with a person who only exists on a page. Watching TV does not have the same impact on our minds.
Fiction allows you to escape reality and walk in someone else’s shoes.
Reading science fiction and fantasy is the equivalent of daydreaming. Many scientists began their journey as science fiction readers. Historical fiction allows us to experience the past through stories. A child who dislikes history with dry dates and places might love the same past when told as stories.
There is research to show that reading literary fiction improves the Theory of Mind. Theory of Mind is the human capacity to comprehend that other people hold beliefs and desires and that these may differ from one’s own beliefs and desires. More broadly, their study shows that works of art enhance this critical skill.
Stories are a complex form of communication, and reading stories have a long-lasting effect on the human brain, per this Emory study. Reading fiction helps us better understand others and enhances our ability to keep an open mind, per this Harvard Business Review article.
Finally, reading fiction brings us joy. Overcoming adversity, triumphant underdogs, falling in love, and finding friendships all bring us enjoyment.
Curl up with a novel today and fall in love with a character. I recommend my historical fiction “Heir to Malla” or check out my book reviews for a great read.
Writing is a solitary journey. We authors think about our characters constantly. Meera and her world enter my reality while I am cooking—walking—in the shower—waiting at the stoplight. They become our friends and family. Then one day, we share our baby with the outside world, with our heart in our hands.
Then comes the reality all authors must face and dread—a negative review. Such reviews may turn our fight or flight response. Neither is beneficial for our writing journey. Writing a book review with constructive feedback is an art by itself. We should learn to treat these reviews as gifts and cherish these reviewers. This is not easy, and it is okay to call a friend and have a meltdown. Just keep it off social media.
As writers, we want to improve our craft. Constructive feedback gives us a valuable window into the mind of our readers. While we cannot make everyone happy, it is crucial to know what readers of our genre expect.
If a reviewer is malicious, please ignore and move on. Picking a fight is not worth your sanity. The good news is most reviewers are thoughtful.
So next time you get a negative review, bake bread and take your anger out on the dough. Then take a deep breath and understand it is not personal. Read the review and mine for the gold nuggets to take your writing to the next level.
Keep writing! I am cheering for you and looking for the next book to fall in love with.
Anne Lamott welcomes you into her life and bares her mind to you in this book. This is no easy task for most of us. It is almost like shedding one’s clothes and allowing the world to see you vulnerable.
Anne shows a budding writer how to do this with humor and self-deprecation. There is nothing earth-shattering revealed in this book about writing. Most of the advice offered here would be familiar to any aspiring writer or an experienced writer wanting to improve their craft.
Still, I found it useful to read this book, if only to know my struggles as a writer are not unique to me.
Recommend: For aspiring and experienced writers who want to hone their craft.
While I am editing War of the Three Kings, I have also started writing book three. I just wrapped chapter one of the finale. These characters have been with me for over six years now, so I am heading towards the finish line with mixed emotions. I want to complete the stories of Meera, Jay, and others. I want to write other tales about new characters who are whispering in my ears now. But there is sad music playing in the background (in my mind) as I think of the ending and bidding these characters farewell.
In some ways, this does feel like a mother or father sending their child off to college and mourning the lost childhood. In my case, I do have other stories I want to tell. Those nebulous ideas in my head now will grow into faint outlines and then characters with personalities and back stories and story arcs.
War of the Three Kings: Can Meera keep her secrets past and present from destroying Magadha and the men she loves?