Tag Archives: Writing

Maintaining A Reading Log Or A Book Journal

 

A reading log (or a book journal) is a great way of keeping a track of what you have read, or are and will be reading. And truth be told, not many of us make or maintain a reading log.

It is in fact good practice that helps you record your reactions to a book, and its characters. You can note your thoughts and gain further insight about the theme, the plot, the appeal and even its relevance. This will help you expand your overall enjoyment of reading and going back to a book you liked.

You will notice that towards the end of it all, you will turn in to a good reviewer of a book and a keen observer of things around.

 

 

Here are a few ideas/questions to get you started:

 

1.    After reading the first couple of chapters, pen down your thoughts. See if they change as you proceed and reach the mid-way. And how you feel towards the end of the book. Would you go back to the book again or tag it as a one-time read? Also note any emotions that the book managed to invoke in you: smile, laughter, anger, worry, concern, tears?
2.    Did you connect with the story line, or the characters, or the ideation at all? Could you draw a parallel with your life while reading it? Did the book remind you of any aspect of your life or an incident you (or someone you know) have undergone? Or did the book remind you of any other book you’ve read in the past? Was there any unique idea that made you think on different lines?
3.    If you connected with any of the characters, who? Why? How? What did you find most appealing? Or given a chance would you become any of the characters? Who? Why?
4.    If you’d have written the story, what would you do differently? Would you change its title, or any of its characters, or altered any bit of the story or location?
5.    Do you have any apprehensions about any part of the book or any of its characters?

6.    Does the book provoke you to ask questions of any sort? What kind of questions would they be? Are they questions about the author or the characters or the ideation?
7.    If you could ask the author questions based on the book, would you? Or would you be inclined to read about the author itself, to maybe give you an insight to his world (his upbringing, his works, his ideologies)?

8.    Were you confused at any point while reading the book? Was there any situation that you did not understand or comprehend or you felt was out of place? Did that affect your reading or thoughts about the book and the author at any point?
9.    Note down your favorite part of the book, and your favorite quote by a character. What was it about them that appealed to you?
10.    Was reading the book a learning experience? If yes, what did the book teach you?
11.    Would you cheer for the book, and recommend it to others?
12.    Did you like the author’s style of writing? Would you read more from his collection? Why or why not?

 

Recording all the above will in a way help you review the book better. It will broaden your thought process, your evaluation power and of course help you explore different genres of books and authors.

You may follow the same practice while reading poetry and plays and other works of literature.

This will also help you read autobiographies, journals, or diaries of renowned authors, about their reading experience. You may also be able to compare your thoughts with theirs.

To conclude, maintaining a book journal or a reading log is a good practice. If you include a list of books that you wish to read in a particular month or year, the log will help you remember and attain your target too.

Let’s not forget, it will give you a good practice of expressing yourself, which in turn may help hone your writing skills. So, go get started tiger! It’s time to pen your thoughts.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogs/Interviews

How To Improve Your Writing Skills

Alright folks. This is not rocket science. Really.

 

First and foremost, before you start, ask yourself “Why am I writing? What am I writing?”
You have to believe me when I say that readers nowadays are more intelligent than back then.
There are a lot many budding/aspiring writers who need to work on their writing skills. And it’s not difficult. All you need is some guidance.  Here are some steps that can and will help you.

 

Vocabulary

To be a decently good writer, one should have a good vocabulary. A broad vocabulary is a must to achieve clarity, power and precision. It also helps you write effectively. The more you know the easier and smooth the flow would be.

You can improve your vocabulary either by reading good books and being with people who have a good command over the language (I mean, good spoken and written vocab); or by looking up unfamiliar words in a dictionary (or a thesaurus). It is also good practice to learn a few new words (with their meaning) everyday.

 

Spelling
No one appreciates poor spelling. It not only reflects badly on your skill and vocabulary but also on your image. And, crucially for persuasive writing, correct spelling gives writing credibility.

Reading Skills

Good writing comes with good reading. Reading good books, blogs, and articles definitely helps in improving your writing.
Reading otherwise too, helps you with vocabulary enrichment, spellings and definitely ideation. It gives you points to think about. It exposes you to multiple writing styles.
 

Grammar and Punctuation 
This is one unwritten law that everyone must abide by. Follow good (rather correct) grammar and punctuation.

Good grammar prevents ambiguity. Bad grammar confuses the reader, hampers the reading process, shows your ignorance and reflects badly on your image and credibility. You have to know the parts of speech- nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. You have to know the difference between the active and passive voices; and the basics of punctuation. You must define where a pause has to be taken or where a break in the sentence is necessary.
Contemporary approach to writing also includes writing short and crisp sentences. Long sentences, more often than not, tend to leave the reader confused. Don’t use fancy or big words just because you know them. Use them only if they are apt in that context. Your readers will appreciate short accurate sentences rather run-ons.
There are a lot of online courses that can help you with grammar, vocabulary, spelling, punctuation, framing sentences and paragraphs, etc.
Research
Indulge in ample of research for material to write on. The more you know about the topic, the more ideas you’ll be able to generate to approach the topic (yes, yes, be it a story idea too). It improves your credibility as a writer if you have your facts right. And you never know, your research might help you stumble upon something rather interesting than a drab to write on.

Let’s not forget, research helps you devise a flow to your writing. This not only helps you keep the reader happy, but also helps the reader understand your thoughts better.
Edits and Criticism

The more you read and write, the better you become.
For that matter, even watching intelligent TV shows (wait, that felt like an oxymoron), helps you hone your vocab.

Get someone to read your drafts. It’s in fact a good practice to have someone help you in the beginning rather than at the end (or absolutely not at all). Read and re-read your drafts. Make edits. Or ask someone to do it for you.
And of course, do not let criticism dampen your spirit to learn and be better. Make sure you listen to critiques. They are here to help you become a better writer. Learn from Criticism.

I’ve noticed that people usually write the same way they speak. So it is better advised to learn how to speak well to begin with. Once you have a command over the language (while speaking), rest assured you will be able to write well too.

 

Tips

Additionally, use intelligent similes and metaphors.
Oh and this one I cannot stress enough: Use complete words and sentences. An essay or story is not a chatroom. No SMS lingo. Please. (You have to follow this one at least, because I said ‘please’.)
Remember: Writing takes patience and practice. Do not give up. But that also doesn’t mean you produce shoddy work.

Things you must keep handy: A dictionary, A thesaurus, An encyclopedia, Reading material (optional)

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogs/Interviews

How To Promote Your Writing

 

Writing is an enjoyable exercise, for most. It is a great way to express your thoughts and feeling with words.

And to garner appreciation for it just adds to the charm, doesn’t it? Further, the thought of “earning” a bit through your work sounds intriguing enough…true? The number of bloggers turning into writers speaks for itself. But not many writers/bloggers find it easy to promote their work. The key word here is “driving traffic to your site where you publish your writing.”
So I thought of putting together a simple list of things one can do to gather a bit of recognition, to begin with.

Attractive Blog Page
Once during our Marketing session in college we were told: jo dikhta hai who bikta hai. (One (product) that is seen is the one that is sold.)
So to begin with, make sure you have a decently attractive blog page. There are a lot of blogging/writing platforms available. WordPress, Joomla, Blogger, Blogspot, Drupal etc., and almost all of them provide members with easy plugins to further help you link it to social media sites. Choose the one that you find easy enough and start harping about your blog/writing.

Create a short and crisp (and may I add “killer”) bio or profile for yourself. Add a picture of yourself if you wish. Once people start liking your content/post, they do tend to read about you.
Blogging platforms also provide members with certain color and background themes to make the page more appealing. They also help with easy navigation layouts. This helps members to organize their blocks and make their “recent” or famed posts more accessible to readers. They provide space for certain ads as well. Easy navigation should be one of the key features of your page.

Do not forget to provide the RSS feed links for people who wish to follow you.

SEO and Link Building

Wise men have said: On the internet, Content is King! 
You have to churn out good, readable material. Know your niche, your strengths and your dominance. It will help you write superlative content.

And you needn’t be a techie geek to know the working of Search Engine Optimization. All you need remember is that SEO essentially banks on the structure of the content you put in. The content needs to be the one that readers are looking for. It needs to be of relevance to the readers to connect with. Make sure you keep the content current and update it on regular basis. This will help readers come back to your site and also share it amongst their friends.

Link Building refers to the back links your page is connected with. One easy way of doing it is by submitting to ‘bookmarks’. People suggest guest blogging and writing guest articles as an effective mean to creating and building back links.

You can also chalk out press releases and submit articles to promote your site. Make sure it has ample of back links to bring in readers.
Social Media Platforms
The mention of social media essentially pops two names in your mind –doesn’t it? FaceBook and Twitter. Yes, they are amongst the top ranking social media platforms to connect with people across the globe. And surely they are a great way to stay connected with people.

One major advantage of networking on social media sites is to help gather an audience and create more back links. You don’t really need to “know” people to gain popularity. Start networking and you’d be amazed to know how small the world actually is.

On FaceBook: You can link your blog/writing page to your profile information tab. You can create a Fan Page for people to “like” and enroll for updates.
Request feedback from friends and family regarding your post. Take criticism positively and work towards betterment.

On Twitter: Tweet in accordance to content relevant to your blog post or writing. Use keywords that work as links to your site. Be creative. Have fun. Tweet links to your content a few times during the day. Oh, don’t forget to re-tweet good posts to gather a good following.
Keep a track of what’s trending on Twitter.
Use hash tags, wisely please.
Place a re-tweet button on your post for people to talk about it.
Follow relevant, popular and interesting people. Reply to relevant, popular and interesting people.

Then there are other sites like LinkedIn (more professional), Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, etc. The internet has millions of other blogging and community sites. Spend some time researching them and registering with them. Leave your blog post links at relevant junctures. This helps in generation of good will. Please make sure you don’t end up spamming. You have to look at it in terms of a long term investment. Make sure you don’t get in the “bad books” of people by spamming them unnecessarily.

Indulge in commenting on blogs you like and find interesting. The comments could be praising the blog post or adding value to the post. Writers can indulge in writing book reviews and posting them on relevant sites – like Amazon, Flipkart, GoodreadsBookChums!
Indulge in forum discussions on relevant sites. Register with forums that are of interest to you and interact with other members by answering their queries, if you can. Do this regularly. It helps in good brand building. Wherever necessary and relevant, leave links to your post.

 
Guest Blogging
It is always good to keep a check on the blogging community. Interact with bloggers/writers that have similar concerns and interests. Invite fellow bloggers to write on your site, and you write for them in return (with your by line of course). This free advertising bit helps in image building and gaining more exposure and visibility online.

 

Stay Active
Popularity doesn’t come in a day. It’s not magic. Unless of course you are controversy’s child. But considering how mortal we all are, there is a considerable patience we all need to hold for results to start pouring in.

You ought to stay active online and look for means to constantly promote yourself and your blog if you really want to stay visible and gain popularity. Always remember: Consistency pays.

 

Other Cool Stuff
Make sure you do something new each day. You’ll have something new to write about each day.
Get creative with video blogs and upload them on various portals. There’s YouTube, Tubemogul, etc. to experiment with. Check out Scribd. That might interest you too.

And if all this is still mumble-jumble for you…I’m around to help you.

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogs/Interviews

To Date Or Not To Date

There was a blog by Rosemarie Urquico on “Date a girl who reads” that created ripples. That was a response to Charles Warnke’s “You should date an illiterate girl”.

 

Since I was almost facing a “writer’s block” and couldn’t think of a blog idea, I thought, why not jot points for people who wish to date. So we can take a look at pros and cons of dating people who are well read, vs. others who disregard books.

Let’s begin with the cons. (No, I’m not a pessimist. I just want the negative out of the way.)
•    A person who loves to read and write would know just too well when you are lying.

•    They would be your grammar police when you least expect them to be.

•    They would be more crazier than you –speaking like Shakespeare, imagining likeRowling, reciting like Keats, talking about Gainman and what have you!

•    They will be master storytellers telling you off. They would have their expectations running high –thanks to all romantic/mystery novels they would’ve gulped by now.

•    They would be gaining more limelight, than you, amongst your peers. And sometimes more weight, sitting around with books as their sole companions.

•    They might, sometimes, be too engrossed in a book to pay attention to you. And sometimes they might end up paying more attention to details than expected.

•    They might lose their cool and snap at you, just because the protagonist behaved like an ……..
And now for the pros:

•    Cost

One of the most important of all factors. (Yes, let’s be practical.) Dating a person who reads implies an inexpensive affair. Books nowadays do cost a lot. Unless they are from some of the Indian publishers who save on the paper quality and offer books for like a mere Rs. 100!
Getting him/her a library card would go easy on your mind and pocket. And also relieve you of thinking, “What should I gift him/her now!?”
Dating a person who does not read implies there is greater cost involved. Imagine the kind of shopping some people indulge in – guys and their electronic gadgets; and girls with their (bare) clothing. Oh this is much more expensive!!!

 

•    Conversation abilities

Hands down I think a well read person can engage you in intellectual conversation, over a person who absolutely scorns books and newspapers. A well read person adds value to your knowledge bank. He/she can help you spin fantastic stories, and dwell in a world of goblins and fairies when you need some cheering.

•    Personality
A person who reads would be wise. (Let’s just say so for conversation sake.) He/she would be more composed and mannered than a person who doesn’t. He/she will understand that failure doesn’t mean the end of the world. A sequel can be written and life will move on. Success will follow. After all, you are the lead of your life story.

•    World of fantasy
There can be so much to talk about, so much to imagine, so much to fantasize about, with a person who reads, (and reads good stuff) over a person who can’t even make decent stories to save his/her life.

•    Priorities
Well…at times his/her books would gain priority over you. But it’s better than indulging in mindless banter with a person who knows not much. True you will be given all the attention and pampering by a person who doesn’t care much for books, but is that of any value when there is no growth, individually or together. If you crave for intellectual challenges, be prepared to not indulge in any with the person who cares not for the written word.

•     Simple living. High thinking.
Apart from the fact that this is Mahatma Gandhi’s quote, it is quite relevant in life. The person gobbles up words like a hungry reader is sure to find pleasures in simple things in life. A flower, the rainbow, the first drop of rain, a butterfly, a coloring book, colors, stationary, anything that brings in a smile instantly without any effort. He/she would inspire you more than life itself, someday!

 

•    Life

Life will no longer be bland with a person who reads. Imagine adventures, treasure hunts, fantasy world stories. You might end up having weird (in a nice way) kids with weirder tastes and observation powers. Growing old with that person would be so much easier and fun. It’s true when they say, marry a person who you can talk to, because when you are old, it’s only good conversations that keep you going. He/she would recite KeatsWordsworthShakespeare,WhitmanWilde with much ease when you wish to hear a few words of love.

•    Other factors
It’s better to have you partner check out books than check out other people when with you. And who doesn’t make mistakes? We all are human after all. At least you can expect a well-worded apology in case you partner goofs up at some place.

All the places that you cannot afford to visit can be imagined and improvised in the company of a partner who utilizes his/her creative abilities to the hilt. He/she will lend you a listening ear. Always. Because, he/she knows how to give someone their undivided concentration.

He/she would know when to get serious and when not. He/she would appreciate your passion just like their’s.

So you see…there are too many pros of dating a well-read person. So go ahead, find yourself a…

good book and begin reading. NOW!

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogs/Interviews

Humor in Writing

Humor does rule the world. At least my world.

Reading humorous pieces livens up our day. It breaks the monotone of work and life. Most problems can be fixed with a dose of laughter. But what I like most about humor pieces is the fact that the point under scrutiny is communicated with much effect and quite intelligently. It also reflects a bit of the writer’s character trait. A writer with a good sense of humor will make sure his/her pieces amuse people.

And others on the verge of writing, here’s a bit of information on the various types of humor in writing:

Burlesque – a form of satire. Burlesque ridicules any basic style of speech or writing. (Parody makes fun of specific writings.)

Caricature – exaggeration of a person’s mental, physical, or personality traits, in wisecrack form. Most people think of sketches when you mention a caricature. But this form of humor reflects well in writing too.

Comedy – a ludicrous and amusing event or series of events designed to provide enjoyment and produce smiles or laughter usually written in a light, familiar, bantering, or satirical style. There are also topical, romantic, satirical, and verbal wit comedies.
The word comes from the French comedie which was derived from the Greco-Latin comoedia which was formed by combining komos, meaning “to revel,” and aeidein, meaning “to sing.”

Exaggeration/Hyperbole – An exaggerated witticism overstates the features, defects, or the strangeness of someone or something. Extreme exaggeration is Hyperbole.

Epigram– clever, short saying about a general group. Mostly satire about mankind.

Incongruity – Lack of harmony between two statements or events is incongruity. A particular situation leading to something totally unrelated does bring in a weirdly funny situation. George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a good example of incongruity.

Irony – something that has been said or done differently than what was meant. It’s like someone says the opposite of what they mean and the listener believes the opposite of what they said.

Repartee – includes clever replies and retorts. The most common form is the insult.

Satire – wit that is critical humor. Satire is sarcasm that makes fun of something.

Surprise
– Surprise elements bring in suspense and unexpected twists. And humor eventually.

Sarcasm – this is one of the most popular forms of humor in literature. Known to be a sharp, harsh, bitter or cutting remark on something or someone, sarcasm often receives high appreciation.

Parody -humorous version of any well-known writing.

Pun
– Puns are more of word play. Jokes, one-liners and witty remarks often are composed of puns. (E.g.: What disease can one associate with cigarettes? Answer: Premature death.)

Wisecrack
– any clever remark about a particular person or thing. Wisecracks are quick wordplays about a person.

Wit -humor, irony, sarcasm, satire, repartee. Wit is funny because of the sudden sharpness and quick perception. Wit can bite. Verbal wit is a type of humor known as Wordplay.

Another technique to induce laughter is to mold funny characters. Or give them certain personality traits that make them unique, in a funny way. Making characters give unsolicited advice (E.g.:  Advice to people who want to buy a puppy:  Don’t.); or narrating interesting anecdotes that induce laughter; or blending two or more words to make a new one (fantabulous from fantastic + fabulous) induce amusement.
(To be continued…
Books and Authors that make you laugh.
)

(Post by Sanjana Kapoor)

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogs/Interviews

An Indian Is, As An Indian Does…

 

We live in an interesting era. New-age Indian authors are on the rise. The market is flooding with authors churning out English books that revolve around campus fiction, contemporary fiction, murder mysteries, local everyday drama, and the commercial story sorts. They give an almost accurate picture of society as it exists today. The real and sometimes pretentious situations; the fictionally honest thoughts; and the simply elaborate settings gel remarkably to make up for fun breezy reads that (usually) are highly appreciated.
And adding awesomeness is the fact that Indian writers no longer write to impress the Western audiences / readers. They write for the masses of their own country. Hence the clichéd content, sometimes. But one of the highlights of their writing is the prolific use of “Hindi” or “Hinglish” or vernacular words /phrases that seem to register and appeal more to the readers.

A movement started by some of India’s renowned and elite authors has finely trickled down to the young authors who do complete justice to the language and its sense (and by that I mean maintain the boundaries of decency and not irk the reader).
Pick up any recent contemporary fiction offered in the last few years and you are sure to come across some of the most widely used terms. Bhagwan, Guru, jungle, chutney, bungalow, Namaste, pajamas, veranda, pundit, loot, bindaas, masala, curry, tandoor, Yoga, Mantra, Nirvana and many such every day terms no longer feel alien when seen used in an English statement.
And not just these. The liberal use of profanity too has occupied a prime spot in scripts nowadays. I don’t think anyone any longer thinks twice before using words like – saala, chor, chup, kamina, badmash, etc.

As I see it, it is a marriage of convenience. The graceful flow of a sentence beautified with the sprinkle of vernacular words that portray just the right feeling at the right time, at least to the Indian at heart. (As long as it doesn’t offend any specific language/nation/person.)
You know how satisfying it is to call someone “saala chor” than just “thief”! You can actually feel the emotion and the adrenaline rush associated with the statement.

Vernacular words seem to infuse a new life into the unadventurous simple language. It feels exotic, given the fact that India and our umpteen Indian languages are truly colorful in nature. It feels as if such generous borrowing from the Indian languages is only making the English language a bit richer. It is hard-hitting. It is effective. And it comes from the heart.

And talking about “Indianization” of words –it is a well known fact that we have proudly “chutnified” the language of the “firangis” by adding an English prefix or post fix to Indian words. Yes, that’s our beloved “Hinglish”.
If I remember right, Oxford included some eighty Indian words (including “Hinglish”) in its 11th Edition of the Concise Dictionary, recognizing the fact that the world’s third-largest English speaking community belongs to India. I’m sure constant use of other choicest words might earn them a place in the dictionary as well.

But that’s not all. Some authors indulge in literal translations (from the local dialect to English), bringing in humor to the most serious of situations. The generalized question tag (Isn’t it? Hai na? Kyu ji?); the repetitive words (take take, morning morning, madamji madamji, fast fast do); the local “lingo” (one-by-two chai, tiffin box, four –twenty (a thief/thug), band-baaja, naach-gaana) are some of the ways of making the situations more bright, cheerful and yes, close to your heart. It, after all, reflects the “Indian” character.

As someone rightly pointed out, the increased usage of Indian languages (words and phrases) is contributing significantly to changing the interface of the English language, adding spice, fun, color and variety to a truly global language. Perhaps the best is yet to come!
Till then I guess we are on the ‘write’ track folks. Just keep them, words, coming.

1 Comment

Filed under Blogs/Interviews