the mutt

Facta non verba

Posted in General, Writing by grx20 on January 9, 2009

Deeds not words.

That’s my resolution for the year.

Nothing very new, fancy or very different. In fact, one doesn’t need a new year to do this. Yet, there’s something about the turn of December into January that ushers hope and new conviction.

The aim is to get the first draft done by the first half of the year. And yes, I do have an idea that I am very excited about. And that helps a lot. I referred to this in passing in my earlier post. I am also quite excited about the structure of the story and it weaves concepts and themes that have fascinated me for many years now – memories, choices not made, forgiveness, hope, innocence and love.

There are four characters, as of now, and I don’t know yet who will be the key around whom the story revolves. I don’t know who will tell the story.

I have been brooding over parts of the story. Some of the incidents, dialogues, events … these are beginning to take shape in my mind and the process is scaring the s*** out of me. I’m assembling pieces, thinking I’m going to get a certain picture, but I don’t know if the picture will indeed turn out that way. It’s scary to hold these pieces in my mind, weighed down as they are by their fragility, because they are not yet connected and have nothing to sustain them.

It feels good to just let them be in my mind. But this is the year of deeds not words.

Well words, as long as they are being written. Every day.

This process of composting, letting the fragments swim around in their own confusion and nebulosity is simply brilliant.

First draft by the first half of the year. But I’ll be honest – I am being too generous. I should actually nail it in three months. Otherwise, and it’s happened before to me, the characters start becoming boring, I start doubting the plot and idea, and worse, second guess.

Here’s to facta, non verba.

On Composting

Posted in General, Writing by grx20 on December 31, 2008

composting

I’m delighted to end the year with composting.

Composting is what I’ve been doing for the last ten days, and it is simply delightful to say the least.

Yes, yes … you saw it coming a mile away – that composting has nothing to with any agricultural venture that I’m undertaking, and I will soon reveal its true meaning.

True meaning: composting is the process of mulling over story in one’s mind. It’s the process of turning it over, looking at it in different angles, pondering over it … cooking, stewing … composting.

Preparing the soil for the idea to grow. No wonder they say, a seed of an idea.

For over a month, I’ve been struggling with issues of voice, style and simply put, ‘what the hell to write about!’

Then, one evening, I got a germ of an idea in an introduction to Anna Karenina. And that germ has been well, germinating. I’ve planted it in my head and I keep watering it and the results are finally beginning to show.

A few conversations have already formed in my mind, a few ‘encounters’ scenes, if you like, are beginning to take shape and characters are beginning to acquire a personality.

I haven’t written a single word. I think I know how I want to begin the story, or at least at which point, but nothing has been transferred to paper yet. And for the first time, I’m finding it a very liberating and enjoyable process.

Composting is something all writers do. You toss it around, turn it around, mess with it, ask ‘what if’ questions, consider point of view issues, tone, and whole array of plots. And just because you haven’t clocked in a 1000 words a day, doesn’t mean you haven’t been working or that your story isn’t making progress.

I’ve heard of writers who have been toying around with an idea for years, some even decades, before finally getting down to writing it. One example that comes to mind rather quickly, (because I read about it recently) is Navtej Sarna’s new book – The Exile. In an interview he says, the subject has been around in his head for almost a decade.

The other thing with composting is timing. It doesn’t make sense to write it until the story is ready to be written and until you are ready to write it. The most awesome idea may require one to mature in years, experience and skill before finding scripting.

I’ve got some ideas I know I am not ready to write yet. I’ve already written some stories I should have written a few years from now. Composting is a critical critical part of writing. Not that I eschew spontaneous creativity or writing on the go, sometimes it is essential to pickle it.

Perhaps you too have been composting a thought – here’s to seeing it come alive.

Who is Navtej Sarna?

Posted in indian writing in english, Writing by grx20 on August 14, 2008

In my first post, I’d like to introduce you a wonderful writer, who very few (lucky few I might add) have heard of – Navtej Sarna.

He’s the former official spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs. Recently, he’s been appointed the Indian Ambassador to Israel. I won’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of him. It’s a little difficult to find any information. Even his own website, www.navtejsarna.com sheds little light. This article from The Hindu here, give a little more.

We Weren’t Lovers Like That

I found his first novel, ‘We Weren’t Lovers Like That’ purely by accident. I was browsing through the Indian Writing section trying to find an author I had never heard of. I found this thin book wedged between two other fat books, almost invisible, and it seemed obscure enough to bother reading the blurb.

From the very beginning, it is evident Sarna is a tuly gifted and talented writer. His word choice is amazing – you feel, no other word could have worked. There are many brilliant parts in the book, and it’s a sheer delight to stumble upon them. The writing is beautiful and the story flows effortlessly. I particularly like the way he introduces the title.

I don’t want to get in to an in-depth review of the book – perhaps another time – but I would highly recommend it. (If you do want reviews, you will find enough in the very first page of a google search).

Interview snippet

From an interview with the magazine Outlook

Q. How long did you take to finish We Weren’t Lovers…?
A. Three years and another ten to get to the point where I could do it in three.

Brilliant!

Full interview here.

Second Thoughts

Navtej Sarna’s column, Second Thoughts, appears on some Sundays in The Hindu’s supplement, Literary Review. And thankfully, it gives us his email id. His website is so outdated, most of the links don’t work, like  his email id. I know. I wrote him, but didn’t get a reply! Some of the articles are available online – most are scattered. I might put together a collection of links. The website of the Hindu (Literary Review section), has archives. But you have to plod through each Sunday to find his article. One of my favourites – The allure of Cote d’Azur. I love the way he ends it – Such a small town, with such long shadows. Full article here.

Finally

He’s got two short stories. Each in a different collection. I’ve read one and it’s just as good. In fact I bought that book, only for that story.

Navtej Sarna is one of the finest Indian writers writing in English. In fact, I would put him on the top rung of writers, period. Sadly unknown, his book is very very hard to find. But if you find it, keep it.