the mutt

Rushdie Rediscovered

Posted in General, Writing by grx20 on April 29, 2009

Over the last few days I’ve been watching interviews with Salman Rushdie on youtube.
And I’m discovering again, he is quite brilliant and also why he’s so highly esteemed.

This one in particular is really good.

I am bowled over by the depth of his ideas, the sheer magic of his imagination and the edgy things he’s doing in his stories.
His latest novel, The Enchantress of Florence is bristling with some amazing ideas. Each of them is good enough for one novel – Rushdie packs them all into one.

I know what my next book is.

Quicksand beginnings.

Posted in General, Writing by grx20 on March 31, 2009

When I was young (ahem, expected aside comes here), I had a sentence stuck in my head. It was the beginning of a story, but I could never take it forward.

dark-cloudsDark clouds threatened the village below.

Finally, after a couple of months, it worked its way into a terrible science fiction, comedy story. It goes like this: The Gods have decided to take away emotions from humans, after witnessing the splendid mess it makes of their lives. (In any case, Earth and emotions was just an experiment of a minor God, so no big deal).  The deed is done, without much fanfare, though the minor God objects passionately. As a result, a favourite writer of the  Gods dishes out terrible stuff, because he can no longer feel and write. In an emergency meeting (during which time the minor God smirks a lot), they decide to reverse the decision.

So where do the dark clouds come in and threaten? When the minor God makes a trip to earth (disguised as a mortal) to meet his favourite writer, before emotions are taken away. The context and setting for the line turned out to be a park, and the protagonist sits on a park bench, engaged in a nail biting, staring contest with an unyielding oak, oblivious to the gathering darkness above his head. And also in the heavens.

Did I say I wrote that when I was young? Make that very young. Truth be told, I still like parts of the story.
It still makes me laugh … a little.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been stuck in another Quicksand Sentence. All my efforts to extract a story, a scene or a character from it have failed.

Every summer they came to the lake.

The working file has many aborted starts and sentences stumped mid way. I keep writing about a man and a woman and an umbrella and a shirt flying through the wind.

Every summer they came to the lake.

One thing is for sure, I’m not making this a science fiction comedy.

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.

Famous rejections

Posted in General, Writing by grx20 on October 22, 2008

A couple of my friends are going through a rather rough patch. At least one of them has aspirations of becoming a writer … well, starting to write, actually. It’s been something he’s always wanted to do, but for whatever reason, has not been. Recently, however, he has been speaking more about it than ever before. I hope he does it and makes it. 

Instead of pumping him with more inspiring quotes I thought I’d post about real life examples. Famous authors and famous books that had a tough time getting published. We all know the Harry Potter series didn’t have it easy. The cult classic Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance was rejected 121 times before finding a publisher – and the editor’s quote is today as famous as the book –  “It forced me to decide what I was in publishing for.”

No no no! It’s not to put the brakes on his endeavours and make it seem like a uphill struggle or a thankless venture. The idea is to encourage him to keep at it. To say, the rough patch will give way to a better road, and a better path. Hope this helps.

(Entire list at: How Stuff Works – http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/14-best-selling-books-repeatedly-rejected-by-publishers.htm and also available at http://donstuff.wordpress.com/2008/10/14/rejected-best-sellers-if-at-first-you-dont-succeed-try-try-again/)

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
Richard Bach has always said that this story, told from the point of view of a young seagull, wasn’t written but channeled. When he sent out the story, Bach received 18 rejection letters. Nobody thought a story about a seagull that flew not for survival but for the joy of flying itself would have an audience. Boy, were they wrong! Macmillan Publishers finally picked up Jonathan Livingston Seagull in 1972, and that year the book sold more than a million copies. A movie followed in 1973, with a sound track by Neil Diamond.

Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen
Within a month of submitting the first manuscript to publishing houses, the creative team behind this multimillion dollar series got turned down 33 consecutive times. Publishers claimed that “anthologies don’t sell” and the book was “too positive.” Total number of rejections? 140. Then, in 1993, the president of Health Communications took a chance on the collection of poems, stories, and tidbits of encouragement. Today, the 65-title series has sold more than 80 million copies in 37 languages.

Dubliners by James Joyce
It took 22 rejections before a publisher took a chance on a young James Joyce in 1914. They didn’t take too big of a chance — only 1,250 copies of Dubliners were initially published. Joyce’s popularity didn’t hit right away; out of the 379 copies that sold in the first year, Joyce himself purchased 120 of them. Joyce would go on to be regarded as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Dubliners, a collection of short stories, is among the most popular of Joyce’s titles, which include A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Finnegans Wake, and Ulysses.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
Pirsig’s manuscript attempts to understand the true meaning of life. By the time it was finally published in 1974, the book had been turned down 121 times. The editor who finally published Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance said of Pirsig’s book, “It forced me to decide what I was in publishing for.” Indeed, Zen has given millions of readers an accessible, enjoyable book for seeking insight into their own lives.

Carrie by Stephen King
If it hadn’t been for Stephen King’s wife, Tabitha, the iconic image of a young girl in a prom dress covered in pig’s blood would not exist. King received 30 rejections for his story of a tormented girl with telekinetic powers, and then he threw it in the trash. Tabitha fished it out. King sent his story around again and, eventually, Carrie was published. The novel became a classic in the horror genre and has enjoyed film and TV adaptations as well. Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement from someone who believes in you.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The only book that Margaret Mitchell ever published, Gone With the Wind won her a Pulitzer Prize in 1937. The story of Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, set in the South during the Civil War, was rejected by 38 publishers before it was printed. The 1939 movie made of Mitchell’s love story, which starred Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, is the highest grossing Hollywood film of all time (adjusted for inflation).

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Quote from the blue

Posted in General, Writing by grx20 on September 29, 2008

“If you aren’t pursuing your dreams, you are pursuing someone else’s dreams.”

I’d read this quote somewhere, a while back. Despite googling a lot, I was unable to find out who said it.
It suddenly came to mind this morning.
A reminder, a nudge to get my act together and write more?

The price

Posted in Writing by grx20 on August 18, 2008

Cynthia Whitcomb has a very inspiring article at her website. (Read the full article here).

“What if all your dreams could come true and the price was ten pages per day?”
What if there were a magic key that really could open up the doors to our dreams? What if this was it? It has certainly been my experience in life that when I am writing like that, things flow. Fun, money, love, success, all the things that one hopes for in life.
I know it sounds silly, but I’m serious here. I’m not talking about abracadabra wave-a-magic-wand magic. I’m talking about real magic. The kind that happens when you strip off the layers of pre-occupation. When you write the stuff that you have to get out of the way before the great stuff down deep inside you can find its way to your conscious mind. It’s in there. And this may be a powerful tool you can take down into the mine to dig out the gold. Ten pages. Every day.

© Cynthia Whitcomb

P.S You can also find the link to this article on the sidebar on the right of this page – under the ‘great reading’  link.

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