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My Writing Journey: 101 Lessons I Learnt From My Mistakes

#1 Mistake: Don't Write the Way You Speak

Early on in my writing days, I posted a sample chapter from my book, The Recession Groom on www.youwriteon.com, a website that promotes budding writers. Excited, I opened my inbox to check my first review and was shocked to read this comment: 'you are a gifted writer but remember, don't write the way you speak.' Needless to say, I was disappointed with the reviewer and with myself (honest reviews are a pleasure only when you're appreciated -- I'm cheeky enough to admit that!). Unfortunately, that didn't change the facts and I realised the reviewer was right. Throughout my years of education, the medium of instruction was English, and yet, I found myself struggling with the language. The same jokes that cracked me up each time I heard them in Hindi, made no sense when translated in English. My French teacher had said to me once: 'you will know you have learnt a language when you start dreaming in it'. This led me to my next question? Do I dream in English or in Hindi? The answer was clear. However, that didn't mean I should start writing in Hindi. No. That would be a disaster, I knew. A Polish friend had once suggested that her language was one of the toughest in the world and I thought to myself, 'well, I wish you knew how tough Hindi was!'

There was nothing for it. In subsequent drafts, I worked hard at correcting my faults and dispensed with the use of vernacular words. But the problem didn't end there. When I started off, I also had a tendency to use filler words such as like, you know, I mean, you know what I mean etc., just so my dialogues would sound real (I wrote like I spoke, you see!). A common tendency is to use swear words as fillers which is fine but sometimes might be overdone and sound amateurish. Not only that, certain words become a part of our speech to such an extent, we don't realise they are incorrectly used, for example, we are so used to writing 'only' at the end of cheques and bank slips, it's become a part of our language and unknowingly, creeps at the end of our sentences. Examples -- I was there only/ I was talking to her only/ I am at home only/ here only/ there only/I love you only.

I'm glad we have a huge support by way of forums such as stackexchange.com, www.wordreference.com, www.yourdictionary.com and languageandgrammar.com, where people can ask questions and get help. These forums are far better than asking friends and/or family members who may be no better than us. In the end I'd just like to say, writing is a journey, we all make mistakes and learn. I hope to share some of my insights, so others don't make similar mistakes.

Quick tips:
1. If you are a professional writer, remember to keep your use of dialect to the minimum.
2. Don't write like you speak but also, don't write like you never speak.
3. Be judicious about use of filler words (read: swear words).
4. If nothing works, please consider writing a novel in your mother tongue, if you know what I mean!

This blog post is also available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.in/vani-kau...
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My Writing Journey: 101 Lessons I Learnt From My Mistakes (#2 Mistake)

Verbosity Doesn’t Make You a Good Writer

Many years ago I told a friend I wanted to be a writer but was scared, I didn’t write like Dickens, nor expressed myself like Keats. ‘Boss,’ he said, ‘you don’t need a great vocabulary to write books. All you need is empathy.’ He was right, and of course, I didn’t listen to him! In 2011, I sat with a dictionary to write the first draft of my book, The Recession Groom, replacing all the words I possibly could with their synonyms. It was a good approach and introduced me to many new words but something was amiss.

First draft over, I showed it to friend number two who had this to say: ‘Vani, you write fine for a while and then all of a sudden a word will be out of whack, not grammatically incorrect, but written with a different rhythm that doesn’t quite fit.’ I was disappointed and kept my draft away for a while to read contemporary authors and found I wasn’t alone. I’d like to quote Jhumpa Lahiri from her novel, The Namesake here: ‘By then she’s dug up the postcards, saved in an unsealed, unmarked manila envelope in the box where she keeps her tax returns, and read them, too, amazed that his words, the sight of his handwriting, still manage to discombobulate her.’ Lahiri is a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and one of my favourite authors but do you see what I see? Discombobulate? — like really? What about upset, frustrate, befuddle? Would they not have been a better choice?

I think there’s something belittling about small and easy words and that’s what makes us prefer their longer (or literary) versions. I remember a quote from Stephen King’s book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, where he says: ‘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. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.’

My lesson: Verbosity never helps unless you are writing Oxford dictionary and also planning to make your reader sit with one. And, I’m not speaking out of love for colloquialism. All I mean is, don’t make the mistake I made. If you’re planning to write, you already have all the tools in your mind, you’ve just got to pick up whichever is handy. Trust me, you don’t need a dictionary for that!

Quick tips:

1. When you think about something, write the first word that comes to your mind. Do away with the need to replace it with synonyms.

2. To quote friend number one: You don’t need a great vocabulary to write books. All you need is empathy.

3. If you feel discombobulated after reading this post, feel free to leave me a comment. I’d try my best to ameliorate my style of writing.

Next blog: #3 Mistake: Never underestimate an idea

For more, check out vaniauthor.com. You could also look at The Huffington Post to read this post. Click here http://www.huffingtonpost.in/vani-kau..."
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UK based Literary Consultant and Editor, Claire Wingfield interviewed me for her blog.

In her words: Congratulations to author Vani Kaushal on the publication of 'The Recession Groom'. You can read all about her path to publication here, including an extract from her successful query letter: http://bit.ly/1BrDkKd Share by 20/01/15 for the chance to win a signed copy of this witty debut novel.
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Published on January 03, 2015 03:39 Tags: author-interview, claire-wingfield, interview, the-recession-groom, vani, vani-author, vani-kaushal

Writing for an international audience

I know that sounds easy. Not so easy when you read this.

I am an Indian and I don’t know what image that conjures up in your mind – an IT professional, Slumdog millionaire, Mahatma Gandhi? Not a writer, for sure. We are great readers, topping the charts across the world; no wonder people think we are nerds. But not many among us have yet received international success to parallel J K Rowling, Stephen King or George R. R. Martin (a few, yes, not forgetting Rushdie, Naipaul, Roy, Ghosh, Adiga, Desai and Chaudhuri, but not many). We will, in time. For now, I offer you a sneak peek into my world to help you better understand the reasons.

To read more click here: http://goo.gl/5g8m4X
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Published on January 24, 2015 11:24 Tags: the-recession-groom, vani, vani-author, vani-kaushal

My Writing Journey: 101 Lessons I Learnt From My Mistakes (#3 Mistake)

Never underestimate an idea

Years ago when I decided to be a writer, a big question that rattled through my mind was what would I write about? They say ideas are a dime a dozen, and yet there wasn't one that clicked. My mistake. I underestimated the power of my ideas, and in doing so rejected many that may have proved fruitful.

There's nothing worse than losing a creative impulse. Maybe it was that impulse that drove Stephenie Meyer to write about a dream in which she saw a young girl falling in love with a vampire. What if she knew then that her four novels would be adapted into one of the biggest movie franchises in the world? Novelist George R R. Martin dreamt of a young boy witnessing the beheading of a man and finding direwolf pups in the snow. That one dream led him to write his bestselling fantasy series Game of Thrones. It was this same impulse that drove Yann Martel to write the story of a boy stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. The story, he says, came to him in twenty minutes. All of it. What if he knew then that Life of Pi would go on to win the Man Booker Prize for Fiction and its movie adaptation several Oscars?

Writers aren't born with extra creativity; they just use their creative impulses well. Some authors like Danielle Steel get so good at it, they are able to churn out multiple novels in one year. Problem is, you don't know when that million dollar idea will come to you. People get their ideas doing all sorts of day-to-day things. I get mine while walking. It was in London, walking to my bus stop for work, that I came upon the title of my first novel, The Recession Groom. The story, the dialogue, and many of the plot twists also came to me during those daily walks. Nowadays, I always carry a smart phone handy to jot down my ideas, lest I forget half of them by the time I get in front of my laptop. My lesson: I can't do much about the ideas I lost before I began to believe in myself--but I'm not going to lose my next sparks of inspiration.

Quick Tips:

1. Next time you have a creative impulse, act on it.
2. Ideas need to be developed and nurtured. Work on them. Polish them.
3. Ideas come to you while you go about your day-to-day work. Keep a note of them.

I hope my blog post gets your creative juices flowing. Who knows - you might have the next million-dollar idea right after reading this. Do leave me a message if that's the case! Or, write to me at vaniauthor@gmail.com.

For more, check out vaniauthor.com. You could also look at The Huffington Post to read this blog. Click here: http://www.huffingtonpost.in/vani-kau...
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Top Indian reviewer on Goodreads interviewed me for her blog

Excerpt:

Aditi Saha: 'The Recession Groom' features a lot of happenings inside an IT industry. How did you research for this purpose?

Vani: Thanks for that question, Aditi. I have a background in Economics and Management and clearly, writing about an IT professional, the triumphs and tribulations of his life wasn’t easy. I needed to know the terms used in the IT industry, had to understand the routines of IT professionals, how they work on projects and in groups, what are their day today challenges and how they deal with them. I read up a lot on the internet and also had help from some friends and family members who are in this industry. I am so happy that the novel has clicked with IT professionals like yourselves.

To read more, click here: http://bookstopcorner.blogspot.in/201...

Big thanks to Aditi for giving me this opportunity!
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'The Recession Groom' is a roller-coaster journey: Hindustan Times

Love and longing in times of recession

In her debut book, Vani takes us through a rollercoaster journey of a Chandigarh groom chasing dollar dreams in Canada. He has no time to find a bride till he is almost chasing them...

I grew up loving this city (Chandigarh) and wanted my readers to know about it and then fall in love with it
—Vani

It is not just the name, Parshuraman, which is rather unusual for a Punjabi family. As an IT professional chasing dollar dreams, he is also the most unlikely protagonist for a book that captures love and longing in times of recession.

Set in the backdrop of Chandigarh, The Recession Groom, the debut novel of Vani, 35, who left business journalism to pursue an MBA from Kingston University at London in 2008 -- takes us back to the time when global recession had hit the Western economies and top multinationals were declaring bankruptcies and handing pink slips to their employees.

The book delves into how these macro-changes changed the small world of an Indian IT professional overnight -- from a sought-after bachelor who is in no hurry to find a bride to one who finds himself desperately longing for one.

Chandigarh connection

Vani chose Chandigarh as the setting for her novel as her protagonist prefers the pace of a small city to the humdrum and chaos of a metro. For someone who did her schooling from Chandigarh, followed by working as a business journalist for a newspaper here, Vani understands the nuances of City Beautiful. “I grew up loving this city and wanted my readers to know about it and then fall in love with it,” she adds. She studied at Bhavan Vidyalaya, Sector 27, and graduated from Government College for Girls, Sector 11.

On being asked what made her take to writing a book after quitting her job, Vani said writing had always been a passion for her. “After I completed MBA and was working in England, I realised I did not want to be in a routine 9 to 5 job. This was also the time I saw friends and family lose jobs in the land of opportunities and it became an inspiration for my first book.”

Interestingly, Vani also tries to break the stereotype of the usual brash, brazen and macho Punjabi male that our movies love to portray or we see around us. Parshuraman is shy and rooted in tradition and modesty. He endures the many quirks of his marriage-obsessed Punjabi family but is never disrespectful towards anyone, in the least a woman, whether she is an over-zealous aunt, a flamboyant colleague or a dominating sister.

Giving the IT guy his due

But it is not all that he has to deal with. He has quite a few quirks of his own. He is unpredictable and impulsive. But as an IT professional, he is programmed to think logically. So even in matters of the heart, this logical Indian thinks through the mind. Only to find, one does not at times let the other rule! And in the words of Vani, it is high time an IT professional got his due in a novel as the main protagonist... not as a nerd, gamer, hacker or a call centre guy but one who can have a happening life, some melodrama ...all worth a good read.

The book will be launched in Chandigarh on February 7 and in Delhi on February 20 followed by other cities.

Read this article here: http://tinyurl.com/p8wgbh9
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Vani’s novel puts a positive spin on global recession: Economic Times

Global trend all about quick reads: Debut novelist Vani

NEW DELHI: Readers’ preference for quick short reads is posing a challenge for authors and novelists who have to turn out literary works that cater to the demand, says journalist-turned-writer Vani.

“Quick reads are challenging writers to create a story which can be told in as many pages as the readers prefer to read these days and still leave nothing unsaid. The challenge is to portray the emotional journey of a protagonist in as many as 300 pages,” says Vani.

She launched her debut fiction ” The Recession Groom” here recently.
Taking a plunge into the world of fiction writing a few years ago, Vani says quick reads have not degraded the quality of literature but challenges authors to develop crisp writing skills.

“I don’t think it is degrading the literature or the quality of literature in anyway. It’s actually challenging the writer to write a story which engages the audience and keeps them turning the pages. The art of storytelling is just getting better and better,” says Vani.

Pointing out that the social media generation of today is more into books which are page turners.

“So you have novels in the classical literature like – ‘The Bleak House’ which go on and narrate stories of characters, the side characters and the emotional journey of these characters. Today the reader does not have that much time and the readers are into fast food culture,” says the novelist.
Appreciating the literature laurels of the classical age, the journalist-turned-author says the number of pages in a book does not hold as much importance if the story is good and artfully narrated.

“A story can also be told in a good 200 to 300 words and the readers will appreciate it,” she says.

“I believe that you can have a quick read and it would still be as wonderful as a big good book for instance – ‘Of Mice and Men’ that’s an amazing book. The smallest novel that you can get hold of ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ is an award winning beautifully written book,” she says.

Vani’s novel puts a positive spin on global recession, tracking the journey of a young IT professional from India and his adventures to find his ‘perfect partner’. Vani has given her work a uniquely Indian flavour, with its underlying theme of arranged marriages, a concept that has long piqued the curiosity of readers.

The novel has been published by Mumbai based Leadstart Publishing.

With economic recession, arranged marriages, love and a boisterous Indian Punjabi family based in Chandigarh, the author says the book promises to be a page turner with an end which is unexpected.

“There is a strong Indian flavor to the story as the protagonist and family is Indian. It’s an international story panned out on an international level with an international theme-global recession. When you come to the ending there are people who are not going to like it,” she says.

The author says she has even written a sequel for the story whose protagonist- Parshuraman Joshi is a 27-year-old handsome, Hindu-Brahmin, IT professional, settled in Canada and who earns a high-figure salary

“I am almost through with the sequel and it’s coming out soon. I love the idea so much that I wanted this character to live in the second book to live in the third book,” says Vani.

To read more click here: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/m...
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Published on February 26, 2015 05:50 Tags: the-recession-groom, vani, vani-author, vani-economic-times

My Writing Journey: 101 Lessons I Learnt From My Mistakes (#4 Mistake)

There's no perfect writing environment!

When I was fairly new to writing, I thought most writers sat in front of their desks, pen in hand, their notebook open in front of them, fire burning in the hearth, a cup of tea right by their side, and words just started flowing. My ideal workplace had to be like Bilbo Baggins's hobbit hole: warm, cosy, comfortable. I was in London at the time and the cold weather helped fuel my fantasies. I had recently bought a laptop and though not the type to write longhand, I invested money in buying new stationary before I sat down to write my first novel, The Recession Groom.

I'd done everything to create a perfect environment, but the words just wouldn't flow. And I needed only to look at my life to understand why. I was working as a management lecturer and my work entailed long hours of standing and lecturing in front of the students. I'd then come home and spend hours working on power-point presentations and case studies. Add to that groceries, cleaning and cooking and one compact bedsit (which looked nothing like a hobbit hole!). By the time I sat down to write, I felt so wrung out and exhausted, nothing came to my mind. Clearly, this wasn't anything close to my dream. And yet, there were many like me who had managed to write novels whilst working full-time jobs.

E. L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, wrote on her Blackberry while travelling to work. American novelist John Grisham was a practicing lawyer when he started writing his first novel, A Time to Kill. He'd get up early in the morning to write and then work during courtroom recesses. I knew my mistake. I was so focused on getting the environment right, I forgot to make the most of what I had. Once I'd learnt my lesson, there was no looking back. I wrote during my lunch break, tea sessions and staff meetings, and wrote when my students worked out case studies. I wrote while correcting their assignments and didn't stop when I took the bus back home. And while I still dream about that perfect writing space, I do not limit myself for the lack of it. These days, I could be sitting in a noisy café, watching a movie or reading a book; as soon as I have an idea, I write it.

Quick Tips:
1. You could be just a step away from your fantasy writing world, but until you get there, make the most of what you have.
2. The rents were always rising, vegetables were always getting costlier and it was always either too hot or too cold. Don't wait for the perfect writing environment to get going. If you have an idea, now is the time to write it.
3. If my blog post helps you write something today, I'd love to hear about it.

You could also look at The Huffington Post to read this blog. Click here: http://www.huffingtonpost.in/vani-kau...
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