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.
I am excited to share the cover of this book with you.
Snow-clad mountains glistened in the morning rays in the distance. Even after all these years, the view filled me with awe.Chapter 1
Guess which kingdom this is? Padi, Saral or Malla?
Spoiler warning (for Heir to Malla): Book blurb and an excerpt can be found here.
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.
I recently finished my first set of revisions and sent the book to my editor. I hope to publish this book this summer and share the story that has been with me for years.
This tale flowed more easily from my head to my hand. Meera is back as one of our two protagonists. She is a decade older and finding her heart tugged in two different directions. Our other protagonist, who will remain nameless, finds his whole identity called into question.
Flavors, colors, and smells of medieval India seep through the pages.
Writing from the perspective of two characters allowed me to depict battles, dances, voyages, and more.
The women in those times resembled the moon. They had no power of their own and derived their authority from the men around them. How they wield this influence is a theme I explore.
For the men of my tale, danger lurks in every corner. From the kiss of a sword to the kiss of a lady, their heart is in peril.
I will be sharing the first chapter with my Newsletter subscribers soon. Please sign up here.
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?
Heir to Malla is available on KindleUnlimited and almost everywhere books are sold.
I write medieval fiction. While my story is set in the fictional land of Magadha, it is loosely based on India around those times. As an author, I do have a choice on what aspects of the culture I reflect in my story. Some of these, like polygamy or women’s agency, is not aligned with modern sensibilities. What should a writer do? Write the story they want to share.
Royal dynasties in the Indian subcontinent commonly practiced polygamy. This practice appears in my books. Whether I approve of it today is not material to the tale. It is a plot device in the hands of an author. I imagine how it must have been for characters to be in this kind of relationship. And I put them in situations that will result in a conflict of their human hearts. I strive to do this without judging them based on my modern awareness.
My female characters inhabit a world where they do not have any agency on their own. They are dependent on their male family members for their authority. Their daily lives differed from mine today. I enjoy writing about the human heart in conflict, the struggle between love and duty, the strife between self and society. For that, I imagine how female characters with different attributes will survive in this world. I place them in harm’s way, tempt them, lead them down wrong paths. And some characters like Meera surprise me with their strength and steadiness.
Readers come to the book with their own life experiences, and once a book leaves my hands, I have to let the readers take it from there. To enjoy, experience, emphasize, fall in love, grieve as they choose.
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on how you approach reading books that have practices that we condemn today.
I am an author of medieval fiction “Heir to Malla”, a story of a princess fighting her battles without wielding a sword or a wand.
I am currently writing my second book “War of the Three Kings“, set in the same world.