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A full-time employee in the Fragrance industry and a mom of two boys, Riti Kaunteya still has made time to write and is now a published author. She tells us how.
Make every work count. That, in short, summarises my writing style.
I fell in love with the English language when I was in school. Dramatised and archaic, Shakespearean plays sounded both romantic and majestic to me. The beauty of every word and the precise meaning and emotion it conveyed was fascinating. I enjoyed studying for English tests those days!
My first article was published for a school magazine and I was extremely proud of it. Thereafter, the only creative writing I did was during exams.
Blogging came when I had true motivation and rich material to write, especially the experience and learning that I assimilated while dealing with my own little clay, ergo my twin boys and their milestones.
Everywhere around me the generation X moms were writing books and soon I felt that if they could, why could not I? I racked my brains for a subject that would compel people to buy the book. I experimented with a simple set of available stories modified to suit the mindset and awareness levels of children of today. I truly felt motivated to write more when Mango books agreed to publish my first writing venture, Folktales from Around the World and soon it became an obsession for me to create more stories to field to publishers.
The idea of writing a story book for children using mathematics as the central theme came out of the blue as I was thinking hard about the next big topic because contrary to my belief, one book didn’t get the book bug out of my system.
I first drafted an outline of concepts, word count and format. I researched, I recalled long forgotten puzzles and number games from the recesses of my memory and made a docket of material from which I would extract sections once the actual writing began. After ten days of pre-work I submitted the proposal to the publisher.
Honestly, writing is not a cake. The wait is endless and you need immense patience as you mentally pace, waiting for an answer from publishers like expectant fathers outside the hospital corridor. For a full time author, it can get very frustrating because the book is supposed to pay the bills.
The idea has to be saleable. Why would a publisher take it unless it is a money spinner? It is not just about the creativity or what you want to write but what the readers want to read and the publisher wants to sell.
After Mango Books agreed to publish Mathematics Fun Facts and Fiction, I began writing the stories.
I am often asked how I find time to read and write along with managing home, children and a full time job. Actually, I don’t need to ‘find’ time because I love reading and writing. Everything else is delegated. I manage the household, make the rules, I do not take work home and I do not delegate the children’s studies. Every minute saved after that is mine.
Actually, I don’t need to ‘find’ time because I love reading and writing.
The iPad has made my life very comfortable because it is easy to carry my work with me when I travel. I have written stories on flights. I use all available time during the weekends to write the book. The trick is to target a set number of stories or words every day when you have a deadline to meet. Even if it means writing just a few paragraphs every week night, I try to slip in that few minutes of writing.
I discovered that when successful authors advise you to write every day and you will get there, they are speaking the gospel truth. I have researched stories in my head during my walks and while on a drive and even reached a dead end until I started writing them out, no matter how little material I had with me. Then I saw my stories take a life of their own, sometimes going out of control, compelling me to change my blueprint. A word of caution: never lose the plot however.
Writing for adults is totally different from writing for children. Fundamentally, a children’s book shapes a fresh mind and it is important to be doing the right thing through the written word. So you pack in the baddies and the good guys but ensure that each gets a fitting treatment in the book in the way that it need to be imparted to the children. The book must be simple yet not stupid and the language in keeping with the basic language skill of the age group you are writing for.
One of the challenges of the mathematics book was to make it relevant for the age band of 8 to 12 years. In the end, it became a book that can grow with the child because not every concept is understood mathematically until the child grows older. Until then, it remains just a clever story.
Mainstream adult books give writers a wider scope in terms of language, views and genre. The writer can meander across time spans and storylines and flit back and forth between point of views of characters and generally play havoc with set mindsets introducing new paradigms on the process.
I would advise aspiring writers to always keep their eyes and ears open for new material. A spontaneous joke or an incident on the road, or anything that has potential to spin off into an episode in the book should be immediately recorded on a notepad. I usually send myself a small note via sms or email if I get a brainwave when I am on the move.
Practice the art. Never refuse an opportunity to write. Step out of your comfort zone, polish the skills and explore writing with different editors and a varied audience.
I read and reread my work to the point where I am officially bored of it. But this is an extremely important step because reading after a time lapse gives a fresh perspective to the work. I discover extra words, errors and new angles which I had not intended.
And most importantly, learn when to stop, do the final edit and press the send button to as many publishers as you can.
Words are concepts and word count is king. I truly hate exploiting them unnecessarily. So use them judiciously and maximise their impact as you write your masterpiece.
“Writing to me came when I least expected it.” – Akshata Ram, Featured Author, June 2017
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