Page after Page – Review of a Book on Writing

200907131524.jpg Have you every come across a book that was so good that you actually felt like kissing it? And then actually did so? If you are a writer, Page after Page can get you dangerously close to having an affair with it. The subtitle of the book goes, “Discover the confidence & passion you need to start writing and keep writing (no matter what)”. Heather has certainly delivered on her promise. Each time I complete a chapter, I am raring to get back to my desk and write out yet another blog post, an entry in my journal, or anything for that matter.    I received a warm, nourishing, nutritious feeling each time I’ve completed a sitting of reading Page After Page. Come to think of it, ‘Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul,’ would have been a more apt title.

Sprinkled with subtle humour, that doesn’t get you laughing out loud, yet leaves you wanting to read just a little for more. The book is divided into 3 parts and 30 chapters. The First Part is to Create a New Writing Self, the Second on How to Maintain Your Commitment to Writing and Final on Finding Your Place in the World of Writing. At the end of every chapter she’s set some amazingly imaginative writing exercises, makes you wish that you were back in school and this be the prescribed textbook. My favourite is exercise #19, where Heather asks you to imagine yourself being the child of your two favourite authors. Who would your Writing Parents be? (My Mum would definitely be Enid Blyton, don’t know who my dad would be). Taking that forward she further asks you to create your Writing Family Tree.

“Choose a writing Aunt, add a few writerly nephews, some neighbours, a whole little town of people who actually do write who are related to you. Goofy as it is, making a collage with these people’s faces (photocopy writer photos at the library) and sticking up inspiring quotes by them really helps…”

I sure it does, Heather. Thanks for the brilliant book!


On Writing – Wooing the Muse.


I don’t Know if the Muse is going to show up or not on any given day, but by golly, I’m going to be at my desk from 8 to 12 every morning in case she does. – Flannery O’Connor

Four blogs that I really enjoy reading.

Out of the 154 or so blogs that I’ve subscribed to in my NetVibes page, there are four that are distinct Star Bloggers in my books. What makes them more exclusive than others is that, these bloggers write for the passion of writing. They don’t care about comments, or even if someone’s reading their posts or not. And probably that’s the reason why almost each of their posts are a refereshing treat.

Arsalan Zaidi’s Blog Posts
Arsalan’s posts have been on management, software projects he’s worked upon & even on Steve Irwin. Each of them are written with such depth and wit (a highly winning combo) that even if it’s on something that I have no idea about, I’m compelled to finish reading it. His posts have this aura of spontaneity yet they’re so intense that Ali has wondered, that does Arsalan just hash out his article and hits publish as soon as he finishes his first draft, or does he spend painful time, ensuring his metaphors sound just right and his adjectives fit perfectly. As soon as either of us spot a new post by Arsalan, me and Ali shoot of a mail to each other that his latest post is also a must-read.

From Where I Sit
Being an ardent GTD implementer that too using a Blackberry & a Mac, it didn’t take me long to stumble upon Michael’s blog on Working Smart. Here he lists his tips and tricks on getting through a typical work day. It’s only when Michael did his last post on Working Smart that I discovered From Where I Sit, his other regular blog.

The more of I read his writings, the more similarities I see in our ways of thinking. Out of curiosity I had to ask if he was a Libran too. Still waiting for a reply. But then that’s just me.

Interim Thoughts
Neelakantan & Ramesh are the contributors behind Interim Thoughts. I tried to do a bit of Googling but failed to find much about this duo. Their views on recent events in the country (specifically around Bangalore and Mumbai) have a point-of-view that I often fail to see the first time. Very often Interim Thoughts offer a more handy and more concise picture than the editorials in our local dailies. Few of my favourite posts have been:
How to write about Indian IT
Foreign Visitor in India
I, Salaried Class

Nishma & Curry
I looked high, I looked low, yet I failed to find a funnier blogger than the great Melvin Durai. Sometimes he completely cracks me up but most of the time his writing gets me into this addictive chuckling fit, that leaves me eager to read more. Born in India, having lived in Zambia and now in US, his diverse background never leaves Melvin short of good material which is consistently delivered with a unique universal appeal. Nishma and Curry is a great place to go to relax after a stressful morning. Click here to see all his posts on India & Indians and click here to read the best of Melvin Durai (,as per Melvin Durai).

Well There you have it folks. Four great blogs for your reading pleasuare, other than the Arif & Ali blog ofcourse :-)

Keep smiling :-)

6 secret-weapons that can help you write better and more regularly.

Do you feel a novelist in you scraping to come out? Want to start a blog but dont think youre writing is good enough? Are you going through the draft of your email again and again before hitting Send? Always dreamt of starting a Journal, but still havent?

Here are 6 little ammunition packs, in which I have found inspiration, motivation, guidance, tips & tricks that has got me banging away on my keyboard like never before:

This is one terrific blog. Why?
– Its vast. Covers a wide range of writing topics be it making headlines, opening statements or creative writing or how to find writing time.
– The blog is updated regularly. Theres a new resource to look forward to everyday.
– The posts are so simplified, its a matter just following the steps presented in a, b c, format which make your writing better instantaneously.

Here are a few posts that got me hooked:
5 simple ways to open your blog post with a bang.
How to write Magnetic Headlines
The David Ogilvy Playbook for Business Blogging
How to write remarkably creative content

2. Writing Well by William Zinsser
Writing Well, a guide for non-fiction writing, boldly states on its cover, More than one million copies sold. One doesnt need to turn too many pages to see why.

Zinsser implies that once you take his four articles of faith: clarity, simplicity, brevity and humanity to the extreme, youll have a piece of writing that will pack a wallop! Key word here is extreme. Hence your writing has to be extremely clear, extremely simple, extremely brief while being human. Truly, if your writing is so easy to understand and it just cannot be made more clear, cannot be made more simple, having no verbiage and using words that bring amount a warm fuzzy human touch, you will certainly have a knockout article every time.

This philosophy is explained nicely, in depth, with many examples of good as well as poor writing throughout the book. And similar to Copyblogger, the ideas are presented so simply that not only is it quick and easy to implement, but they provide instant gratification too when you experience your writing improve immediately.

3. Bird by Bird, Anne Lamont
This is a lovely read. With unrestrained wit Anne journeys through her life; what made her a novelist and what does it take to become a writer. Although a specific guide for fiction writers, the chapters titled, Shitty First Drafts (in her words not mine), Perfectionism, Writers Block inspire and motivate greatly to make this a worthy buy for all writers.

Heres an excerpt:
Very few writers know what theyre doing until theyve done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled. They do not type a few stiff warm-up sentences and find themselves bounding along like huskies in the snow. One writer I know tells me that he sits down every morning and tells himself nicely, Its not like you dont have choice, because you do – you can either type or kill yourself. We all feel like we are pulling teeth, even those writers whose prose end up most natural and fluid. ?

4. Gotham Writers Workshop
Theres only so much guidance that a book can give. Sometimes its sufficient and other times you need someone to hold your hand gently guide you all the way through. Gotham Writers Workshop offers classes on all types of writing from Poetry, to novel writing, to screen writing for movies. Although these classes are conducted in New York theres an online version of this class too. Whats also great is that Gotham limits the number of participants to each online class too, hence making it easier for the teacher to focus on individual students.

Just like in regular classes, you will get out from it, how much you put in. I have taken a couple of courses from Gotham Writers Workshop. The material is good, but its the discipline training and tough-attitude building what was really valuable. When presented with a deadline, I let go of all excuses, Im no longer tired, to hell with the muse, I have to finish this piece and somehow scrape the time and do it.

5. A Collins thesaurus
A Thesaurus is a writers best friend. Ive tried Rogets, Oxfords, Mac OS Xs inbuilt Thesaurus and the online too. None of them have the depth and breadth that Collins does. It has come to my rescue many a times to help me say just the thing I wanted to, when other Thesauruss have failed me.

6. Scrivener
Despite of having all the wonderful resources above, I dont think Id be writing regularly if it werent for this magical writing software. Sadly only available for the Macintosh. Its as if the through the keyboard this software connects to your writing soul and knows just the feature that you would want. Merlin Mann from 43 folders has done a terrific review of it. Here are the key features that have me in love with this software:

– Its so much easier to keep my writing organised:

Unlike traditional word processing softwares, like MS Word (yeech!), A single file is not a single word document, which you have to keep organised within folders. Each Scrivener document is a project, within which you can have multiple folders and again within which multiple documents. Therefore I have opened a Scrivener project called Blog posts and here Ive created 3 folders 1. Drafts, 2. Posted on Blog, 3. Archive and with which I have created separate documents for each. And now its so easy for me to navigate from one document to another. While writing this blog post, suppose if I feel the need to see something I wrote in a earlier draft I just click on to that document in the binder and Im there.

– Theres a shortcut for everything.

Anything I want to do is only a couple of keystrokes away. If I want to move to another document in the same binder, I dont really need to use the mouse to do it. I hit Crtl+Option+Cmd+B to go to the binder. Use the arrow key to move to the document and ta da, Im there! And its not just moving between documents, theres truly a shortcut for almost everything as you can see from the screenshot below. If you really spend as much time on the keyboard as I do, thats a huge time saving. And for whats theres no shortcut theres Quicksilver Menu command.

– The full screen option has to be tried to be savoured. This one option, really make you feel like wanting to write. It just screams, “Nobody bother me, cant you see Im writing!”

Theres the corkboard view, outline view, snapshot feature, it goes on and on, like I saidits just magical.

Well, that’s about it. In conclusion, here’s the single one post that has had the greatest impact from Copyblogger on my writing.