Guides and Aspirations

For the past few months, Indireads has been celebrating one year of operations, one year of books, one year of authors from South Asia. In the grand scheme of things, it seems like we’re mere fledglings, babes in the woods that have a long way to go yet. We are and we do, but we see our first year a little differently.

We see it as one year of learning, one year of reading, one year of teaching and one year of making our mark. We see it as a way to understand how to be different, how to stand out, how to keep moving upwards. We see it as the first circle of existence, the first round of readers, the beginnings of great new authors and more books.

Few people know this, but with one exception, all of Indireads’ books so far have been by first-time authors—unknown, aspiring writers who have a story to tell and a passion to learn. They’re authors who have surprised us, even stunned us with their creative ideas, their talent, their desire to grow. Some of them had a single story to tell, but a few have proven to be exceptional writers, potential bestselling authors, even when they were writing for the first time.

We hope, we believe, that they will just get better with experience.

Indireads is still in the business, however, of nurturing new talent. Our Aspiring Author page has a number of excellent resources for first-time authors, including a short writing guide for beginners. The guide breaks down the daunting task of creating a plausible and compelling story into a series of easily digested steps. We also have a general Indireads Guide for Authors that offers more detailed explanations for those writing for the first time, or even for those in need of a quick refresher.

Here’s a quick snippet from the Indireads Writing Guide for Beginners (PDF, opens in a new window):

Revise Your First Draft:

You want your editors and publishers to view you as a professional, so be careful with punctuation, grammar and language. Review the first draft yourself and check for typos, spelling errors and formatting. If your editor is not worried about these things, he/she is more likely to concentrate on the plot and character development. Feedback will be more comprehensive and far more constructive as a result.

You may find that as you write, your story evolves by itself. That’s not always a bad thing, and you may make changes to the plot or a character as you go along. Editor feedback will point out any holes in your story, or weak elements that can be corrected. As objective readers, they tend to see gaps in a story with far more clarity than you will.

While the guide for beginners focuses on novellas, it has all the elements one needs to write any length story. The guide is now part of a new blog section we are working on, IndiWrite (Feedback Fridays is one part of this section). IndiWrite will offer resources, links, downloads and articles from authors, editors and the Indireads’ team for aspiring authors.

Happy Diwali!

Postscript: If you offer valuable knowledge or insight into what it means to be an author, or how to become an author, and would like to contribute to IndiWrite, please contact us with your idea, your article or your post.


She Reads, South Asia

My journey to appreciating South Asian writing was a rather circuitous one.

While growing up I read widely and eclectically, which is another way of saying that I read pretty much everything I could get my hands on. At that time, familiarity with the classics was considered essential for the well-read person, so my father enthusiastically supported my love of reading by buying me the unabridged works of Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens and Edgar Allen Poe, to name a few. The longer it had been since the author had died, the better.

By the time I went off to college, I considered myself quite well-read. Unfortunately, my knowledge of South Asian literature was next to nothing. This is something that I have tried to remedy as I have grown older and wiser, at least in terms of fiction from the sub-continent written in English. From Vikram Seth to Arundhati Roy, from Salman Rushdie to Mohsin Hamid to the wonderful Chitra Divakaruni and Kiran Desai, I discovered and fell in love with the writers and their craft. And then I branched beyond the award winners and discovered delightfully evocative fiction written by the likes of Anuja Chauhan, Advaita Kala and Rupa Gulab, who have become some of my favorite South Asian popular women writers.

As I started discussing my reading likes and dislikes with friends, I was surprised at how common my journey had been. Most of my friends had read the classics, but many of them had never even heard of enormously evocative writers like Indu Sundaresan or Anjana Appachana.

A few years ago, when I started on the Indireads journey, I was equally surprised to see how many in my reading circles had favorite Western romance writers—Georgette Heyer, Mary Balogh, Sophie Kinsella and Judith McNaught et al, but when it came to South Asian romance, most of my women reader friends were just not interested. Slowly I came to realize that, by design, accident or choice, we know very little about the amazing writing talent that lives and thrives within our own region. It is hard to be an author anywhere in the world, but to be an author in South Asia, and that too a writer of ‘women’s fiction’, can be quite a challenge.

SheReads South Asia was conceived as an initiative to allow ourselves to be inspired by these writers and to celebrate their words. Motivated by 2014 being celebrated as the Year of Reading Women and building on the success of the #ReadWomen2014 campaign, SheReads South Asia will reach out to women readers, encouraging them to support, discover and engage with our very own South Asian women writers and their works.

Through SheReads, Sabahat and I hope to make the journey of discovery easier for many readers.

Over the years, I have also been drawn towards spirituality, and there, the masters point out how the discovery of oneself is a long, winding road. Maybe the path to discovering yourself, your roots and your stories, was never meant to be straight either. The journey may be long and circuitous but we hope SheReads South Asia will take out at least a few bends on the road, allowing you and us to get ‘home’ faster. May the journey begin!


Where do you get your ideas from?

doodlesI know this question is often met with derision from literary panels, but I think it is a relevant question to ask a writer. Writers get ideas from the world around them, but so does everyone else.

Perhaps the question should be—what makes this process unique for writers?

People who like to express their ideas through the written word come equipped with a specialist device manufactured from books and the worldview of their creators. When a ‘writer’ meets an idea and says hello, it triggers a series of unstoppable reactions which transforms the ‘germ of the idea’ into a narrative. The disparate units, the random details that float around in the information sphere, a faded memory, a suppressed cry, now becomes a song with meaning and purpose and structure. It is now preserved in a perfectly constructed capsule, equipped to protect and transport ideas to future generations.

Articles, poems, short stories, novellas, novels…they are snapshots of the past. They are letters from times gone by. We get ideas from the past so that we may speak to the future.

Here’s a litmus test for you to decide if you are cut out for telling stories with words. Write me a flash fiction tale in five sentences in the comments area inspired by a significant event in your college/university life.

And I will provide you feedback 🙂


From Blogger to Author?

Are you a blogger? Many of the writers we work with are dedicated bloggers who have been putting their thoughts out there for the world to see. Whether their following is large or small, the blogger’s central purpose is met—to bring their voice, their thoughts and their words in front of an audience, to someone other than just themselves.

After consistent blogging, one’s thoughts start falling into place, and one recognizes oneself differently. Writing skills improve, self-expression come to the fore and feedback from readers boosts confidence. So what is the next step? Can a blogger take a leap of faith and move from random thoughts and opinions into creating a coherent, sustained story?

Many of our writers have had the courage to take their writing and creativity to the next level, going from blogger to author. How many of you would like to do the same?