Friday, May 23, 2014

How to start your novel and organize your manuscript

Have a great idea? Want to get that masterpiece out of your head onto the real world for everyone to see and be dazzled?

Here I was asking the same question to myself almost an year ago. And my first novel is in the publishing process right now as we speak.

Come along young Jedi. I'll show you how its done.

Just begin: 
There is only one step to start writing your novel. Just start. Do no think about the plot. Don't sketch out the characters. Don't decide on the ending.Yet
There is a time and place for all this. But not now. All you need is one scene. One single scene of your story playing in your head. Just run with this scene

Sit the hell down and start writing that scene. Don't bother about details. Just a mental dump. Sure it's garbage. But it's real garbage. Physical.

Writing begets writing:
Now that you have taken the leap of faith there is only one way to go. Down the rabbit hole. The one thing that makes you write more is writing in the first place. When you sit down and write the first paragraph, you are already thinking about the world you are creating and the characters and their actions and consequences.

 Most of your ideas would approach you not when you are thinking and waiting for them but when you are actually writing. One scene will lead to another. One thread to another. One setting to another spectacle. One plot thread to another twist. The novel will practically write itself if only you have the courage to begin and an imagination to let yourself carried away by your characters and their lives.

Write daily:
I cannot stress this enough. No matter what happens, write daily. Every single day. 

Feeling a little low? Write.
Too much work at your day job? Write.
Godzilla attacking your city? Write.

Have a target. All you need is to write 1000 words daily and within 2 and half months you have a decent sized novel. Even at 500 words a day you will be there in a mere 5 months. That's it. Write daily. 

Yes, there will be days  when you seem to hit a massive writer's block and your mind is just frozen. But write anyway. Whatever comes to your mind. You can always delete/edit it later if need be. But there will also be days when magic would flow through your fingers. There were days when I couldn't write even 200 words and there were days when I just kept writing and haven't noticed I have written more than 2000 words. If you don't write on the dull days you won't get to the magical days.

Do not wait for motivation:
The biggest source of motivation is your writing. As I said only writing begets writing. Just show up and write. As Stephen king famously said:

'Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work'

Show up and write daily. That's how novels get written. 

Write everywhere:
Write from your office. Write while on bus. Write while in a meeting. 
You never know when the next scene would hit you and when it would just start writing. 
I wrote most of my novel on my mobile phone during different parts of my day and would just save it as draft on my email. At the end of the day incorporate it into your manuscript.

Screw continuity and linearity:
Just because your are writing a particular plot line or a character's perspective doesn't mean you need to continue writing the same. If you have hit a mental block on this plot line, just start writing another thread which interests you.

This is the only way you can keep writing without burning yourself out. Keep jumping from one thread to another unless you are in groove and churning out pages after pages in this particular thread.

Save. A lot :
Assuming you are writing on your computer. Save your manuscript everyday. Multiple times a day actually. Saving is mandatory for every 50 words. God knows how we wrote those 50 words. Don't let the evil forces of power failure and system crashes take them away. 
Also don't keep your manuscript in one single location. Save it on drives. E-mails. Cloud. Always have backups and update them daily.
There is a reason Voldemort had horcruxes.

Edit :
Your first draft is going to be pure, unadulterated, magical piece of shit. No first draft ever turns out great. The actual writing is in the edits. Be brutal. Edit, edit and edit. And then edit some more. And then re-edit.
Make your manuscript tighter, more gripping and properly laid out. Read out what you have written. See how it rolls of your tongue. See how the words flow. If it feels unnatural, it mostly is. Edit until it feels natural.

Apart from writing, the only thing that will help you write is reading. Read to get into the mood. Want to write an epic battle scene? Read some epic battle scenes. This will help you get into the flow.

Make music your muse:
This is another thing which helped me a lot. Writing a sad scene? Playing the Gladiator theme would surely help. Music is a device which instantaneously puts you into the mood and helps you with the flow.

So that's it. Just start writing and let things figure out themselves as you write. And then edit like a maniac.
That's how novels are written. That's how usually anything is written.
And that's how this post was written.

Want to see how my first novel turned out? You can follow the updates here: VAJRA

This was originally written as a Quora answer : My original answer

Friday, February 14, 2014

Why does Rahman's music grow on you?

Let me start out by saying I am no expert on music. But the greatness of the man I am about to write about doesn't need the insight of an expert to see it's grandeur.

I know I am not the only one here. Rahman's music grows on you. Currently I am on a repeat spree of Patakha Guddi from Highway but the first time I listened to the song, it was just 'meh'.

So why do we love this man? What makes his music tick? What makes his recent music sound so alien and disjointed on the first listening? And what on second and third attempt makes us listen to the same song till our ears bleed and our audio devices run out of battery?

Human mind intuitively detects melody and  rhythm. This is why even babies detect and appreciate music. Your mind detects patterns of sounds and predicts what comes next. At some level your music relates to brain's reward system. When it encounters music, it reacts the same way as when it encounters food or sex. It releases dopamine.

This rush or high of dopamine is felt when we are able to predict what comes next in a piece of music because of the patterns formed and expected. Human mind instinctively appreciates simple melodies and rhythms. Simpler patterns. Patterns easy to predict.

Now Rahman's older songs .. for example in Roja and Bombay were not completely simple. But they were adhering to the conventional sense of music we grew up with. They were melodious, soothing, exciting and intuitively appealing .. even to a child. It just felt good listening to them even on the first time.

This happened because the dopamine was flowing as we knew and understood the patterns and predicted the good segments coming up.

The later renditions of Rahman on the other hand are the complete antithesis of this. They don't have a intuitive melody or rhythm. At every moment of song, your predictions of what might come next are shattered, torn and thrown into chaos. Your brain doesn't know what to make of it. The patterns it has come to recognize over the time are totally useless here. The sound that's coming in is not following its rules.

This is why on first hearing, the song does nothing to you. No dopamine flowing. But here lies the trick. The brain on first hearing, though it doesn't already have patterns which it could predict ... is now forming new patterns because of what you have heard. And some of those patterns stick. They are deep down somehow similar to the basic patterns, although layered with a lot other things and you like them.

So though you didn't like the song on first hearing, there are somethings which are appealing and you return to the song. This time the song makes much more musical sense because of the new patterns formed. This time the dopamine is flowing a little. So basically Rahman's recent songs don't give you an easy immediate high but are like an extended release.

Once you hear a new song of Rahman your mind is no longer the same. New patterns are formed between your neurons. You are now thinking in ways you have never thought before.

Each repetition makes you like the song even more because you now detect patterns which you couldn't earlier because they simply didn't exist before you heard the song. Brilliant patterns which were never explored before. The magic of Rahman lies in the fact that the the puzzle is never completely solved. Each new hearing leads you down new paths, new patterns, new links.

Like any art form, the recent renditions of Rahman are new, fresh, adventurous, little blasphemous, experimental , are a form of expression and are most importantly soulful.

So here I am listening to Patakha Guddi, literally changing my mind.

So go ahead and explore new destinies, new sounds and new patterns.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why you should watch 'Nenokkadine'

I don't usually recommend movies to anyone. I hate and love Tollywood movies equally. But today I am going to urge people to watch a movie.

Nenokkadine starring Mahesh Babu.

Now Mahesh had his own share of hits and flops but this is not about hit movies or flop movies. It's not about good movies or bad movies. It's about different movies.

This is about a nation where films like Chennai express and Dhoom 3 enter the multi-crore club and are massive hits .A nation where thoughtful movies are not encouraged and are deemed risky.

The less people appreciate thoughtful movies the lesser thoughtful movies will be made. The less money they make, less is the chance of such films again being made and seeing the light of day. And the less thoughtful movies are made, less is the chance that peoples expectations from a movie will change. It's a vicious cycle.

We have to break this cycle if we want the film industry to grow any better from the mindless commercial routine of dance, fight and song sequences. If we want stories to be told ... to be heard. Because you see its all about stories. Stories that are waiting to be told. Stories waiting to enchant, surprise, shock, depress and inspire people. Stories that never get told because they are not 'commercial enough'.

The movie has its own share of flaws .. clumsy editing .. unnecessary drawn out sequences, senseless romance angle and yes .. some commercial elements that are forcefully shoehorned into the movie and forced down the audience's throats. But that doesn't mean they didn't at least make the effort.

They did make an effort to tell a story ...a flawed one but a story nonetheless, without giving in to the cliches that plague the current film industry. The protagonist comes across ... at least some of the time .... as an actual human. An ordinary human with flaws, emotions and mistakes. Not some 'punch-dialogue spewing perfect-superman-alpha male-hero-evil ending-savior'. And there were some moments where Mahesh showed what an actor can do if given an opportunity to rise above the usual over the top antics that are common place among all movies.

And don't shun this movie saying that it does not have comedy, entertainment etc because when you do that here is what you sound like

"Jabba watch movie. Movie made think. Jabba don't like think. Head hurt Jabba. Jabba angry"

So go ahead and try this movie out. Because by watching this movie you are not giving the movie a chance ... you are giving yourself a chance of being exposed to different genre ... a chance of maybe liking something which is not formulaic and doesn't have routine commercial elements. You are giving a chance to the industry to trust in experiments.

A chance that if we are lucky enough, the industry will 'may be' one day dare to tell stories.

As you can see the author of this post loves stories and has written a wonderful story in his first novel VAJRA
You can show your support by liking the facebook page VAJRA 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sinners - A post-apocalyptic tale

The streets are now full of bodies. And fire.
I and 4 others are the only survivors I have encountered so far. The outer world is now completely in ruins. It's hard to find food anymore.

I don't know why we are alive. We are supposed to be dead. Each and everyone of us.

Why did it all end? It seems God has answered our prayers.
It all began in a prison. In India.

I remember watching the news that day. Reports flooded in of the mysterious deaths of 42 prisoners in a high-security prison in Northern India.
They all dropped dead simultaneously. Just like that. Autopsy didn't help much.

Two days later it started happening in all the prisons all over the country. Hard-Core prisoners just dropping like flies everywhere. This phenomenon then spread all over the world. Soon it was the turn of Gangsters and rulers of organized crime. 80% of world's most wanted criminals are now dead by this time.

Politicians and some movie stars started dropping too. Governments started panicking everywhere. The cause is found to be some form of a crude psychic wave emanating from Sambhal city of Uttar Pradesh in India, which has since been termed "Area Zero".

The source is declared as a small boy aged 12 in Sambhal who always appeared to be asleep although in a seated position. Closely following this discovery, sensitives and psychics all over the world simultaneously started having strange visions. Visions of a white horse. More people died each day and more people claimed to have had visions of a white horse.

Any attempt to stop the boy proved futile. Any one who approached "Area zero"  with an intention to harm the boy immediately dropped dead. Most of the prisons all over the world were now almost empty. Convicts died in huge numbers. Some miraculously survived for unknown reasons.

The west dubbed the boy "Punisher" for his immediate targets seemed to be sinners of highest order. But the Indians had a different name for him.

They called him 'Kalki'

According to Hindu cosmology there are four yugas which are cyclic like the seasons

1)Satya Yuga or golden age where all righteous principles of Dharma are followed
2)Treta Yuga or silver age
3)Dwapara yuga or Bronze age
4)Kali yuga or Iron age where sin and Adharma prevail over Dharma.

It is said when evil and sin reach their pinnacle in Kali yuga Vishnu will return in his final 10th Avatar 'Kalki' on a white horse and destroy all sinners and sin and usher this world into a new Satya Yuga again.

The west also started calling him the the "First horseman of apocalypse or the white horseman of apocalypse"

Suddenly everyone wanted to clean away their sin. Thousands died in stampedes at temples all over India. India suddenly becomes the most visited place for its temples and also the most feared place because of it's proximity to Area Zero.

Priests become rulers of this crumbling world. Soon, once the seemingly obvious sinners seem to have been killed, common ordinary citizens start dying in huge numbers. Priests are not spared either.

Soon it dawns on everyone that everybody is a sinner, in thoughts or actions and everyone is eventually going to be killed, sooner or later. What do you do when your God is trying to kill you? whom do you pray to? Thousands commit suicide. Society starts to fall apart. Families get together all over the world.

Soon people start reporting that pregnant women all over the world started disappearing suddenly. Vanishing right in front of others eyes.

My guess is they are being teleported to Area Zero. May be new born babies will be used to populate the new golden age-SatyaYuga as un-born babies are the only people who cant sin yet. Just a theory

I saw most of my relatives, neighbors, friends die. I waited and waited.Honestly I expected my turn to come at a much earlier stage. Soon I was the only one left in my town.

I wandered cities like a savage, trying to find other survivors. Once everyone seemed to die, the restructuring began. Entire cities started burning up instantaneously. This is RagnaRok. I have no idea if this happening all over the world. Communication systems are down. So are all other systems. The world is one big funeral pyre. I met 4 others along the way. A doctor, a cop, a suicidal librarian and a priest. Most of the knowledge which I now have, comes from the librarian and some of it from the priest.

Me? I was one of the few that survived the initial prison holocausts. I used to be a drug dealer. I have no idea why I survived. Neither does any of us. We are no saints. It has been 5 months since the restructuring began. Entire blocks burn down in a night leaving nothing but ruins and ash. We now live underground, scouring daily for food in the constantly changing fiery outer-world.

Why are we being kept alive? What is our purpose? We don't know. Is there any way to stop this? Are there any more survivors? Where are the mothers? I think answers can only be found at one place and here we are ... surviving along the way, getting closer to that dreadful land of liberation.

Area Zero.

This was originally written as a Quora answer
Original Quora answer

Note: All pictures belong to their respective copyright owners.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Doom again: Dhoom 3 Review

So here's my review of Dhoom:3. Spoilers abound. You have been warned.

Once upon a time in some random city not in India ( because if you are robbing a bank in matrix-esque black leather clothes using super bikes you have to definitely do it somewhere outside India .. right? I mean who wears black leather in such a hot climate?) a Circus performer + Magician + Father  + husband of a wife we never see + Hero of Khal naayak who performs a teleportation trick (we all know where this is going) commits suicide because he doesn't have enough money and a bank doesn't lend him any.

Give me your money

This is somehow the bank's fault and the son swears his vengeance upon the evil bank and grows up to become the Batman.

Oops. Sorry wrong movie. He instead becomes a thief who seems to be inspired by the Joker. He still has bat like ears though.
 I could have played legolas in lord of the rings without makeup. Where's my bow?

So the elf looking super thief steals the bank, one branch at a time while recruiting Katrina kaif for his circus, impressed by her flexible Yoga skills.

Mean while our dear old ACP Jai Dixit and consistently useless Ali are called to help catch this thief after they outdo Rajni Kanth in crazy stunts, beating up random tamil Goondas on an auto. They are assisted by a female super cop Victoria whose role makes the role of Bipasha in Dhoom 2 look more poignant than Vidya Balan's role in Kahani.

Jai uses his tried and tested method of making sure the thief causes more damage by making him steal once more and in the impending chase manages to wound him.

Jai somehow miraculously knows the thief is the same guy as the circus guy and confronts him there but is dumbfounded to see no evidence of any bullet wound on the circus clown. And then comes the mother of all twists. If you were surprised that there is Aamir Khan in such a mindless movie then get ready to be shocked that there are actually two Aamir Khans in the movie and that was how the teleportation trick was being done.
Yep. Didn't see that one coming at all

So our dynamic duo of Jai and Ali now have two thieves and their bike/boat/submarine/jetplane/chitti the Robo to fight against. As usual they fail to stop the thieves from robbing the bank again and the bank is closed down. I don't understand why do they even show up in these movies because in the end they don't seem to be stopping any robberies from happening.

Now that their goal is fulfilled, the two elf brothers head to a random dam. Why? All Dhoom villains need an elevated structure to jump and die from .... that's why. And Jai and Ali ambush them there. How did they know? Because Dhoom. That's how.

Official logo for all Dhoom Villains

So in a mind shattering twist which everyone saw coming,  the twins jump from the convenient dam, holding hands and smiling.

Moral of the story: If you need to catch a Dhoom villain then wait at the bottom of the dam ...not atop the dam.

3 Practical Reasons to be a Hindu

Note: All pictures belong to their respective copy right owners

Want to know what are the practical reasons to become a Hindu?? Read on.

1) It's hard to debunk Hindusim

Hinduism doesn't have a conventional religious set up and so most of the arguments against religion are not very effective against it.

Atheists are gonna have a hard time arguing with a Hindu. Consider A to be Atheist and H to be Hindu

A: So you think there is an all powerful one supreme being watching us all? This entire world?
H: Don't be stupid. Of course not. There are 330 Million of them. There is whole different race of Gods out there. They all share the burden.

A: What makes you think God is male? It's just because of patriarchal society and its evil machinations.
H: We have Goddesses buddy. Mighty powerful lot of them. Bazinga!

A:How can you believe in creationism and reject evolution? How do you account for how old your religion says the world is?
H: Actually 10 avatars of Vishnu closely symbolize evolution and time goes in cycles here. Our Yugas are cyclic. Haha .. if only you can see the look on your face now.

A: Ok how about the problem of Evil or the problem of epicurus. Now I gotcha

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"
— The riddle of Epicurus, also known as The Problem of Evil or The Epicurean Trilemma 

H(trying to control his laughter): Karma Dumbass !!

2) The Mythology is rich and wonderful:

Hinduism has awesome mythology. No boring religious lectures. Non-stop fun right from the word go.

A brilliant archer from a race of super warriors  rescues his wife from a demon king with the help of flying warrior apes and grizzly bears by crossing an ocean! Bonus: Awesome war between apes, bears and demons

Sounds like an anime you would watch the hell out of? That's a religious epic here. Imagine teaching your kids this.

3) Hindu Gods are badass

Multiple hands? check
Multiple heads? check
Cool world-destroying weapons? check
Laser shooting third eye? Check
Flying, apparating and pretty much can do everything? check

Hindu gods will  burn you with their extra eyes and cut you off with their divine discs. X-men got nothing on Hindu gods. 
Krishna can't hear you over the sound of how awesome he is 

They are DragonBall Z level badasses.

Imagine worshiping Goku .Now  multiply that a thousand times over. That's how awesome it gets.

So there you go. 3 practical reasons for being a Hindu.

More Hindu mythology awesomeness in store in my upcoming novel VAJRA

This post was originally written as a Quora answer 
My original Quora answer

For atheists  who would prefer something non -religious, you can follow the below answer
My Quora answer in support of Atheism

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Why you should become a Quoran.

So recently I started becoming active on Quora.

This is what Quora taught me.

That there are a lot more people like me out there than I expected.

I read a lot, write moderately, draw extensively, interested in mythology, science, comic books and graphic novels, prefer movies which make you think over movies which entertain. I always thought that my kind of people didn't exist in large numbers.

There were even times when I thought may be something is wrong with me. I am pretty social. I make friends easily and can easily carry out conversations in topics they are interested in (which don't even remotely resemble my actual interests) but it's always an act. 

I keep my wild nerdy side reigned in. 

I couldn't relate very much to the majority of people. Here's what usually happens when I actually try to talk about my interests.

But once I discovered Quora ..I was like "Whoa!! My kind of people do exist and that too in huge numbers. This is going to be a party"

But now there's another problem.

Sigh !

This post was initially written as a Quora answer

More themes on Invisibles, Watchmen and insights on Soma in my upcoming novel VAJRA

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