And This is Where I Summarise

The things we do for the love of reading and writing! Here are some of the things that I put up on my blog this year.

Book Reviews

I have written a lot of book reviews this year. But the most fun I had was in the months of September and October, when I raced against time to read the Booker shortlist, before the winner got announced. I managed to read five out of six, Paul Auster’s 4 3 2 1 being too long for me, even in the best of times. Reading these excellent books back to back provided me with some great insights regarding the storylines and the plots. I was excited to read these vastly different voices, from the richly imagined Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (the 2017 winner) to the ethereal History of the Wolves by Emily Fridlund (an excellent debut). There was another debut work, Elmet by Fiona Mozley, which had excellent world building. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid has received effusive praise and I would let others do the talking here. Autumn by Ali Smith made me long to write something on those lines; light, contemporary, witty and yet poignant. It sounded from the heart; it talked of things close to us, the ones that touch us deeply in life.

I also marveled at how these adept writers broke the rules and how books are wonderous even when they are flawed.

Listicles

This year, I made public my love for writing lists. Ideally, everything I know or think of can be written in the form of lists. It isn’t just the satisfaction of ticking off things; it is the fun of enumerating things without having to structure my thoughts much. So, I kicked off 2017 with a weekly feature on lists. Those listicles ruled the blog till October when I realised that I was repeating myself and would do so unless I found different things to write about. Most of the listicles were about the writing process and really, nearly all of them are my favourites. Still, I would recommend this one on keeping the writing inspiration strong. And this one on the Muse. Also this on creativity. I wrote one on goodbyes. And why I write.

NaNoWriMo 2017

I completed the NaNoWriMo this year too and saw the difference it makes when one writes a lot, even though initially a lot of it may be crappy. I learnt a lot more about the writing process and what my strengths (obstinacy) and weaknesses (outlining) are.

If we were having coffee…

I wanted to write many coffee posts and have a heart to heart talk with my readers but this year, I was also stuck in the bubble of not wanting to talk much about myself or what was up in my personal life. I wanted to cut out the I, Me, Myself completely but our blogs are essentially a reflection of our selves. I need not have played the hide and seek. Hopefully, in the coming months, I would be able to talk more of my experiences.

Through the Mist

The best thing in the journey of reading and writing came in the form of a collaborative book that got published this year. I got together with four other writers and penned short stories for a collection titled, Through the Mist. Writing with others turned out to be a new and fun experience and having my own published book in my hands is a priceless feeling. Being part of a very supportive team of writers, the editor and the publisher has been an enriching writing experience.

Sunday Trees

This year has also been about the trees. I cannot help noticing them wherever I go. I am incredibly fortunate to be in cities that are teeming with so many of them. And as a blogger friend pointed out, we appreciate and take care of trees and that’s a fantastic thing on our part.

I was also very fascinated with flowers. For some time, I happened to be in a place where the houses are fronted with magnificent gardens, a plethora of flowers in every yard. I was hooked as I saw their colours and forms with new eyes. And then we moved places and there are no flowers in the boxed apartments. I have taken to clicking leaves of the potted plants. But that’s a story for another time.

Thanks and good wishes to each one of you in the blogging community. I wouldn’t be here, if not for you.

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6 Awesome Tips on Writing by Stephen King 

The American author Stephen King’s book ‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’ is a memoir that documents his experiences as a writer and relays his advice for aspiring writers. 

Here are 6 tips from his book that you can start following right away for your writing to be better. 

1. Read a lot and Write a Lot 

Reading is as much an investment into writing as writing itself. Reading is for you to understand the art of writing even though it is not done consciously. Yet, it is a learning process and every reader picks his own lessons. 

Good writing… teaches the learning writer about style, graceful narration, plot development, the creation of believable characters, and truth-telling.

Writing a lot, regularly and consistently, is what makes a writer confident and better. King, considered one of the most prolific writers of our time, says that he writes every day. 

2. Write simply 

Some writers have enormous vocabularies, says King, but it is alright to use simpler words. Simplicity communicates ideas better. So, you can chuck the big words and stop being pretentious… Umm that is, stop showing off. 

One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones.

3. Pay Attention to Grammar 

It would be rather obvious that a grammatically correct text is capable of putting the correct meaning across. Some writers may argue that they could never understand the complex rules of grammar. But sentences must make rational sense. So it is important to brush up on the grammar that we all learnt in High School. 

If you can remember all the accessories that go with your best outfit, the contents of your purse, the starting lineup of the New York Yankees or the Houston Oilers, or what label “Hang On Sloopy” by The McCoys was on, you are capable of remembering the difference between a gerund (verb form used as a noun) and a par-ticiple (verb form used as an adjective).

4. Use the Active Voice 

… and avoid the passive voice in your writing. King says that the passive voice is weak ;it puts forth information in a roundabout manner and is ‘tortuous’. 

I think timid writers like them for the same reason timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe. There is no troublesome action to contend with…

5. Don’t use Adverbs 

The words that modify verbs, adjectives and other adverbs and ending in -ly are the words that a writer should avoid. You might think that you are putting in a punch when you describe things and situations with adverbs. Paradoxically, the use of adverbs tells us that the writer is not expressing clearly what he wants to communicate. The writer has not put in enough context or a backstory. King also advises that adverbs should be be avoided like the plague, especially in dialogue attribution. 

With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid, he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.

6. Take care of the paragraphs 

King says that writing is refined thinking and paragraphs help organize the subject matter. A basic paragraph has a topic sentence followed by support and description sentences. 

Paragraphs structure the writing and the flow. 

…the paragraph, not the sentence, is the basic unit of writing—the place where coherence begins and words stand a chance of becoming more than mere words. 

 And lastly, to inspire you furthur, Stephen King says about Writing… 

I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever. 

Friday Listicles‘, are running into their second month. It is a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

5 ways a ‘Done List’ is better than a ‘To Do List’

What is a Done List, you might ask. To the people who swear by the usefulness of the To Do List to drive their productivity and to raise their efficiency, the mention of a Done List might come as a surprise. A Done List is the one that puts together the things you have accomplished. A To Do list helps in organization and in setting priorities and a Done List helps in inspiring and in driving productivity. 
A Done List might be considered the opposite of a To Do List in the way that it lists out the things that have been completed or the learnings that have come about in the course of a day or the brilliant ideas that have been brainstormed. But the fact is that these lists are not opposites but are complimentary. When used together, these can drive your productivity much higher. 

A To Do is Possibility and a Done is Results. Here are Five ways a Done List is the better half of a To Do List. 

1. Done Lists focus more on the things you have accomplished. This is the reason that a Done List is far more satisfying to create and behold. To Do Lists tend to be long and even when you tick off more than 70% of the items, the remaining ones point an invisible finger at you, making you feel guilty. To Do Lists generally stay incomplete. 

On the other hand, a Done List has the things, projects, goals that are all complete and it is for you to happily run down your eyes on the things that you have accomplished. 

2. Done Lists are a better tracking tool. Sure, To Do Lists put all the things that you need to accomplish in one place so that you don’t forget the little things with the larger projects but the Done List tracks what actually gets accomplished. It is a better way to know how many things really got through. This is especially required when there are a number of projects or tasks that need to be completed. Without a Done List, anything that has been finished may get buried in the deluge of tasks and you may not even realize that you are doing good and are on track for many things. 

3. Done Lists are great for productivity analysis. With the Done list you really know how much you have accomplished by looking at the things that have been completed. It helps to inspire and is useful for further planning. 

The Done Lists provide a different perspective of the Doing-game in helping with the review of the goals reached. They are motivating because the results are real. 

4. Done Lists are overwhelming in a positive way. For a To Do List, the sheer number of things that need to be done can be overwhelming. For a Done List, the number of things that have been accomplished could be positively overwhelming and boost self esteem and confidence. 

5. Done Lists complete the picture and provide a balance. The To Do List is about expectations. The Done List is about results. So, analysing the things done can lead to better planning through an evaluation of why some items don’t make it to the Done List. 

How do you manage your tasks and goals? Do you prefer making lists? 

This listicle is fourth in the series of ‘Friday Listicles‘, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

5 Inspirational Quotes on Writing 

1. “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right—as right as you can, any-way—it belongs to anyone who wants to read it.”

-Stephen King in ‘On Writing’

I find this quote very inspiring, especially when I struggle to revise and edit, wondering what to keep and what to cross out. I understand my responsibility for my writing to be meaningful because when I share it, it is no longer mine alone. 

2. “Rereading old books that I love. I think the writing energizes and inspires me as much as it did the first time. I also watch a lot of TV. Immersing myself in other people’s stories really helps me.”

—Brandy Colbert, author of Pointe on how to defeat the writer’s block. 

There are so many times I hit it, the writer’s block. The books I love always tell me the what and how and I come back brimming with ideas, wanting to recreate the magic. 

3. “Originality is partly a matter of having your own influences: read evolutionary biology textbooks or the Old Testament, find your metaphors where no one’s looking, don’t belong. Or belong to the other world that is not quite this one, the world from which you send back your messages.”

– Rebecca Solnit, writer

I find this advice beautiful… Of belonging to another world because that is what I feel, when I spend too much time in my head. 

4. “Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside remembering all the times you’ve felt that way.” 

– Charles Bukowski, poet. 

This relates to life and to disappointments and to the misery we feel occasionally. I may feel that when I am trying to write something ambitious but I always remember that I have been able to finish and that it turned out alright. 

5. “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” 

– Toni Morrison, in her Nobel lecture, 1993.

This is the only true reason that I am inspired to write. To create a measure for my life. 


Do share the writers quotes that inspire you and make you want to take up that pen right now… 

This is the third in the series of ‘Friday Listicles‘, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

Top Ten Things You Have Always Wondered About Listicles

…But did not know whom to ask. 

1. Do listicles present content in a short and snappy format? 

Snappy, yes. Easy to digest, yes. Fun, yes. Short? Not always. A listicle could be like this one, listing the top ten, which is not so time consuming or it could be ’99 ways your pet needs attention’. It does take a little longer to read 99 bulleted points. 

2. Are listicles… Umm… what is the word… distracting

The modern living is characterized by distractions in the form of multitasking and aimless surfing on the Internet. But listicles are feel good and fun and take into account that the average reader’s attention span is in seconds (How many? When? That is the topic of another listicle). The listicle has evolved as a direct result of these tendencies. 

3. Does the listicle sacrifice good content for more eyeballs? 

Not really. Just because it is capsulated information does not mean it can be any less effective than compelling arguements and a structured approach to the topic on hand. 

4. Is the listicle an art form

To answer this, let us ask ourselves some more telling questions. Is the listicle a form of short art? Is it at par with a haiku? Is it like a limerick with a decided structure and a lot of punch? Is it like a cartoon in the newspaper, tellingly commenting on the social change and the political milieu? Is it like a doodle? Isn’t a listicle akin to finding a gem from the rubble? 

5. What makes a listicle easy to read

The listicle needs to be succint. It must have a structure. And yes, it has a linear structure. It takes a mass of information and breaks it down into pieces. It presents those pieces, often with no regard to the increasing or decreasing significance of material presented. 

6. Can a listicle be akin to snacking

Yes, of course. It may not be the main meal and not as nutritious but important and tasty and fun. 

7. Do the listicles have a genre

The listicles are very versatile. They can be a take on the important with the downright silly; must know facts with totally irrelevant ones. 

8. Can a listicle be just words

It is perfectly alright to put together a list of the funniest cartoons or gifs. The only thing that matters is a central theme. 

9. Are the list posts better than the Why posts and the How to posts and videos? 

If you are targeting word nerds and information freaks and bored readers, then yes! 

10. Do the listicles offer extraneous information? 

As a rule, they should not but there are times when you want the listicle to list the top ten reasons for something and you can only come up with nine. Like now, like this one. 

Please add to the list to tell us what ways a listicle is attractive to you. Are there any listicles that you would want to read or write? 

This is the second in the series of ‘Friday Listicles‘, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

7 Reasons Why We Love Listicles

Why is it that making lists is simply irresistible to us? From having post-its stuck to all sorts of surfaces to having scraps of paper scattered around with little reminders to having lengthy do-its that are made first thing in the morning, we have come a long way. It used to be personal; rummaging around for the lists in the recesses of our handbags or neatly folded away in our wallets. The obsession is now public; from the insufferably loud support for the BuJos… the Bullet Journals that are the superpowers when it comes to organising our thoughts, activities and destinies to the way journalism and content on the web is now arranged for consumption. 

The Internet is awash with all sorts of lists, a veritable cornucopia of the ways we love this or dislike that and the ultimate listings of the books we cannot miss and the sound tracks we ought to have on our playlists. These lists have spawned a new way of journalism, called the listicle. A listicle is the combination of the words ‘list’ and ‘article’ and is an article that is presented in the form of a bulleted or numbered list. 

Are these listicles popular? Very! Here are the reasons that find resonance with so many around the globe. 

1. Bite sized information – In today’s information overload, anything that can be read quickly, understood without much effort and digested immediately looks attractive. The listicles score high on all these counts. Not only does the title get to the point immediately but the content of the listicle is concise. There is no beating-about-the-bush, no preamble, no middle and no ending. All that the listicle wants to tell you is right there, at a glance. 

2. The Certainity Factor – The reader knows exactly what she is getting into. The listicle promises and delivers. You know what the article is about and you know how long it is going to be. At a cursory glance, you know that “12 ways to improve your Communication with your colleagues” is going to take a lot lesser time than “99 ways to train your pet”.

3. Easy Peasy – The ease is in the reading and the writing. No more extra checks for grammar and worrying about words being in context. The prose is not convoluted and there are facts, facts and possibly some more funny facts (assumptions) in the listicle. 

4. The Illusion of Completeness – after reading “78 Greatest Music Tracks of All Time ” there is no way a reader is going to read another article to see if she missed something. There is something about the listicles that make everything sound so definitive. 

5. Ticking them Off – As every self respecting List Lover would tell you, half the pleasure of list making is in the ticking off of the items ; the listicle readers can justifiably tick the ones they have read and experienced. And if they are reading of something that they know nothing about because they were led to the listicle by their morbid curiosity, then the pleasure is in mentally ticking off the points that they are reading. 

6. Stress Relief – The sky rocketing stress levels means that you need something to calm those swirling and murky thoughts in your mind. Putting down things in staccatto helps in writing out everything that is bothersome or has been around for too long to ignore now. Put down that stress on the paper or the screen and put away seeing the shrink. That is possibly what the writers of those listicles do when their editors/employers tell them to come up with a definitive and all encompassing article on something like the social etiquette. 

7. Memorisation – Easy memorisation of the organized information is one of the best benign effects reading a listicle brings ( even for the ones that you hate to read).There is no need to categorise information that has been presented in rambling paragraphs, looking for salient points and reducing the need to draw inferences from the data presented. The listicle has done it for you. Of the “19 best LBD styles”, you are bound to remember around 6. 

Now, go gorge on them. 

There are so many ways that we love the listicles. Let us count the ways. Tell me what is it about a list or a listicle that draws you to it. 

This is the first in the series of ‘Friday Listicles‘, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend.