Oct 31, 2013

Yay! I've got nothing planned for nanowrimo.

NaNoWriMo starts in less than 1 hour and I've not decided what I am going to write. Yet. But I am going to decide, because once I put my fingers to the keyboard, I'll force the story out no matter how painful it is. 

In my two "successful" NaNoWriMo attempts, I wrote what I really wanted to read or whatever was bothering/influencing me at that moment of time, but this time, I am going to let the story take its course. No planing. I am just going to wing it. Because planning is the first step towards failure. If I don't plan, I can't fail. I can only do what I want to do. And that is to write.

Which goes completely against my "advice" in the last few posts.

Now even then the question rises, what the actual fuck should I write? It's a fucking stupid thing to ask, but asking fucking stupid things just cuz they're fucking stupid has not stopped me from asking them.


You need to ask fucking stupid questions so that you don't make fucking stupid mistakes. You dig me? Are you with me? You get what I am saying? where I am coming from? Yeah? No? fuck no? How in the fuck does it matter. I just wanted to swear a bit. You can fucking ignore this paragraph just like you've ignored everything important in your life, you fat fuck.

So, let's skin this cat, because you can't actually tell me what you want to read, I am going to write what you might want to read. Simple enough? I don't know.

Let me know if you wanna talk about this. We should talk about this. My slow descent into madness and all dark places. You know my twitter handle, that's where you came here from anyway. It's @69fubar.

How To Read More Books, Faster

There are more books published today than ever before. Anyone with a keyboard and an internet connection can bring out a book today. While this gives readers a whole lot of choice, it also creates a big deal of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) on genres of their choice. 

In my limited experience, you can only read more books faster when you're interested in reading a book. When the material grips you by the throat and keeps you awake till 3 in the morning. You'll know it when that happens.

So how can you read more books faster?

1) Get on Goodreads: Even though I don't like the website's design, it is still a very good starting point of keeping a track of what you're reading and how far along you are in your reading challenge for the year. There is a reading challenge on Goodreads where you can promise yourself the number of books you'll read in a year. Good stuff, I am on Goodreads here. I update it on/off.

2) Find a comfortable reading platform: While many people scoff at reading on screens such as mobile phones and laptop monitors, it is the future and it's coming at you full speed. If you don't suffer from any kind of eye problems, I don't see any reason why you can't read a book on a screen, because come on, you're reading this post a screen too. Consider a book like thousands of blog posts, read at your pace.

One thing I'd suggest if you're reading on laptop or computer monitor, is to get this app F.lux which can regulate the color of your screen to make it easy to read.

Another, if you want to read in your browser, and you have books in .epub format, you can get a number of .epub readers in the app stores of your browser. There are .epub reading extensions available for both Chrome and Firefox. Also, if you're into reading Kindle books, you can simply go to http://read.amazon.com/ and read your kindle books here.

3) Invest some money in a book reader of your choice: Now, be it a kindle or an iPad or a Tab. It makes sense to go for something which has a slightly better screen than Chinese made cheap tablets. You get what you pay for, frankly. So get something good. You're a serious reader, you need a fucking tablet. No two ways about it. This is the future.

4) Book reading apps: Book reading apps for tablets and phones are a dime a dozen on all kinds of app stores. My personal favorites are iBooks on iPhone (put your .epubs in Dropbox or email them to yourself, download and open in iBooks), Stanza app on iPhone (I don't think it's available anymore) Readmill (on Both iOS and Android), Moon Reader+ (Android only). I use some or most of these apps, and the best part about using multiple apps is that, if you get bored or fatigued of reading a book in one platform, maybe you can switch to a different genre or author in another app. Variation is the spice of life and everything.

5) Get Information about Books: While reading the genres of your interest is the best way to get more reading done faster, one should always explore other writing genres too. You can join online book clubs, or book specific websites. Buzzfeed has a good section about books, there are tumblr blogs about books, Amazon sends good emails about the books that might interest you or books that are free, you've to create your own reading flow when it comes to reading. You can follow your favorite authors on Twitter and FB to make sure that you're in sync with whatever new material they're putting out. iO9 and Tor often write good stuff about books. I am not linking any of them because I am lazy, and you're not, you know how to punch things into Google, right?

So, that's about it. You read more books by reading more books. Simple as that. The tips mentioned above can help you, but only till a degree, after that you're on your own, just like everything else in life. Happy reading!

[Got thoughts? Tips? Ideas? life hacks? hit me on @69fubar to talk about this post]

Oct 29, 2013

The Problems With Physical Books

I do most of my reading on screens. I buy paper books only when it's some really amazing book or it's a book that is really special, a classic or sorts. Or if i am giving a book as a gift to someone. Or if it's on a sale. The first problem with buying physical books is that they demand space. It's fine when you buy 2-3 books a month, but add them up and in a year, you've to devote some really good shelf space to that. Keep doing that for five years or so and soon you'll be keeping books in towers on the floors and god help you if you decide to move town.

You might not want to leave your books and you might not want to give them away. Even if you don't read those books every again, just owning them and possessing them creates a logistical nightmare that can only be solved if you're too rich to not care about trivial things like storage space for books. Sadly, I am not that rich yet and the living space is precious, so less paper books for me.

There are even more problems with physical books. They're basically designed to be attractive, and I've been burned too many times by reading a blurb that promised something amazing but the meat of the book was tasteless and vapid. The Unknown Soldier is one book that comes to mind. I picked the book based on the blurb, but struggled to read through it. That is not the only book. Lot of examples where I picked the book based on reading a few inner pages, blurb, cover image and the book turns out to be a damp squib. Been burned too many times and now those books are just collecting dust somewhere in my house. I don't feel like throwing them away, because that just doesn't feel right. Physical books are harder to transport and even harder to ship. Oh, and if you're shipping a book from US stores, the shipping charges are more than the price of the books. It's insane. 

And then add the problem of environmental degradation to physical books and that's another can of worms. Every books printed on paper is part of some dead tree. Why can't we print the books on recycled paper? Which is not really a solution, because recycling also takes a lot of energy which is produced by burning coal etc, it's a vicious circle.

With the technology available today, it's not too difficult to create a complete reading schedule through gadgets. There are some puritans who say that they like the feel of a book in their hands, and the smell of the book etc etc etc. Well, all that is good and fine. Such people should keep reading books the way they like it.

As for me, I've moved on to 98% reading on screens. Next post, I will talk about how I read on screens, which apps, gadgets, file formats, etc go best for reading on screens.

[Drop me a line @69fubar on twitter if you'd like to talk about something I said in this post]

Oct 25, 2013

on blogging

Why Do I Blog?

I've been blogging on different platforms for close to ten years and even after all this time, the need to say something, the desire to express, to learn, to do something new, it doesn't sit silent. Twitter dulled my blogging mojo for a while, but like a dead body floats to the surface of a pond, the same itch, the same bite to say something is back.

Why do I blog?

This blog was my primary source for writing stories, but I stopped doing that a while ago. I feel bad for stopping. So I'll start again sometime in the future. A lot of things bother me about the world we live in. Most of the times, I rant on twitter about all that is wrong in the world, but then there are other times when things need proper fleshing out, dressing down and complete analysis. A blog is just about perfect for those times.

There are times when you want to record something for future, for past, for remembrance, when you want to share something with the world, for now and for future. A blog is perfect for that.

Why do I blog?

I blog because I can, because I want to, and because I should.

Oct 24, 2013

How To Write A Story :: (Part 3 of 3)

Writing the actual story.

The big one. Now let's not beat around the bush here, you can punch into google the simple phrase that "how to write a story" and you will get thousands of results with posts and theories written by people who are more intelligent, smarter, experienced, and articulate than me. So why should I even bother? I think I should bother because I might have something different to say than people who've written about writing stories before me.

Science and Art
Writing a story is both a science and an art. There are technical aspects and there are emotional aspects, and a good story is a combination of both in the right degree. A story needs a soul, a story needs a voice, a story should say something more than what is being said on the page. Barring all these, a story should be entertaining, it should move the readers, it should delight and disgust them. Because every story is an escape. So, when you write, are you providing readers with that escape? Are you giving them something that is more interesting than their life might be? If not, then make it so. That is your job.

Answer to a Question
Most of all, a story poses a question and answers it. When writing your story, write down the question you want to ask. The bigger and most complex the question is, the better your answer will be. Read your favorite stories, think about the questions the writers were asking and how they've answered. More often than not, the question will be buried under layers of meaning and the answer will be out there in the pages. You might have to work your way backwards, but it's a learning process that we all need to go through.

Writing a story is difficult. So learn about it as much as you can. Find out all you can, and when you sit down to write. Just write. No distractions, no nothing till you've made your word count of the day. There will be better time to edit it.

A Journey
A story is a journey and when you write the first word, know the end. Then use all the other words to reach it and make the journey as interesting as possible.

It's About Knowing
Now, near the end of this post, you might realize that I've said almost nothing about the technical aspects of writing a story. Because there is none. You can't write a good story in the first draft, and this is what participating in NaNoWriMo is about. Once you do it, you'll KNOW that you can write 50,000 words and then you'll KNOW that you can edit them too.

You might have something good at the end of it all, and you might not, but you'll always have the knowledge that you wrote 50k words in one month.

I wish you luck and swift fingers. May your muse sit on your head and beat you till you finish your word count.

[hit me on twitter, @69fubar if you want to talk about storytelling or anything else in general]

Oct 19, 2013

The NaNoWriMo Pre-Plan and Random Insults. (Part 2 of 3)

Come November, and all the hidden novelists come out of their caves, filled with vim and vigor to take on the challenge that November brings for them. To hammer out 50,000 words of a story that will propel them to the heights of stardom or some equally stupid dream like that.

See, if you're writing NaNoWriMo to be famous or to create a publishable novel, then put that thought out of your mind right now. This is not about writing your masterpiece or even your debut, that comes much much later. Takes much more than tears, bloody, frustrated yellings at all and everything in god's green creation.

Writing is not a novel vocation. You'd make much more money and have much more fun working for a call center or something. Still here? Good. Let's get into the practical aspects of how to get the 50k word count, because it's not really that easy unless you're prepared and you know what you're doing. More than anything, writing for NaNoWriMo is dedicating yourself to a routine and not letting anything deviate you from it. But things are going to get into the way of writing your daily count of words, things like life, family, kids, significant others, mechanical failures, lack of inspiration to write, and other such bullshit. But, if you're prepared, if you're determined, if you have an arsenal of tools at your disposal, you can crack it.

I believe you can crack it. How're you going to crack it? I'll tell you how.

The Pre-Plan

There are still some good 13 days to beginning of November and these days are your pre-planning days. You're going to prepare yourself and your life on multiple levels and also prep-up your novel (you've got the idea down by now, right?). Six aspects of pre-prep.

1) Get done with your reading: I failed to complete the NaNoWriMo in 2011 because being the idiot that I am, I started with the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire. And from then on it was all downhill. So, the no reading or low reading part is extremely important because of two factors. First, every page that you read is a page that you're not writing. Second, whatever we read can subconsciously leech into what we're writing. Which is never a good thing. You don't really want to end up with 50k words where the characters and situations in your novel mirror the overall collective of the books you were reading in November. But reading is important for writers, so read something that is non-fiction. And always read AFTER you're done with your daily quote of 1667 words.

2) Choose your weapons: Your weapon here is the software or tools that you're going to use to writer. Pen and paper? MS Word? Notepad? Scrievner? Dried skin of your enemies with their blood and tears for ink? It's all a matter of personal preference. You can Google around to find out lists and lists of resources that tell you about all the writing implements that you can use, but they mean less than jackshit if you're not committed to writing. So choose a tool that makes you feel good. Pen and paper or your mobile phone screen, choose and stick to it. Still, here are some things you must incorporate into your workflow.

    2a) Excel sheets: Mark out the days from 1-30 November in a column. Next column is your word count for the day. Which is 1667 to make it to 50 by end of November. Just highlight every day with green once you're done for the day and do not break the chain. If you know that you're about to miss a day or two, pre-plan and write more on a previous day. If you miss a day because of some reason, write more on the next day. It's simple as that.
   2b) Backup, Backup, Backup: Swear by your first born child that you're going to keep AT LEAST three backups of your work. Because losing even 1k words because you didn't save or backup is like a pain of first heartbreak. Maybe not, but you know how it is. Your choices? Save on local drive of your computer. Make a folder in your Dropbox account and third, save a copy in your Google Drive. If you're backed up in the cloud and you've a mobile with good screen estate, you can even push the word count forward whenever the mood strikes you. Peter V Brett wrote his first novel on his mobile phone while riding the subway to work. Remember, every word counts.

   2c) Organize: Writing 50k words ends up as a total mess if you're not careful. And if you're not careful, you might not even want to look at that dump of shit ever again. So organize with future in mind. The strategy that has worked for me in past is to create one master file with every day's word count added to it and at the same time, keep sub-files for each day that I've written. Files names are important for organization. I normally name files in a way that I can take a glance at the novel's folder and find out the status of the novel as well as the inspiration to write ahead. I organize files by numbers. Example: 1 Nov_Killing The Beast_1667. This helps me in knowing the date, the chapter name, and words. Also, as far as you can, try saving files in .txt format. Why? Because .doc files might get corrupt. It is also better to email the day's word count to your alternate email ID by copy-pasting the chapter in the body of the email. Less chance of getting into some kind of format problems.

3) The Time: While you can chalk out multiple times in the day to write, it can be extremely draining to write throughout the day. I've done it, so you can trust me on that. The best way to go about it is to wake up at 4 AMand then writer. Haha, insane? No? NO. NOT AT ALL. You're the one who wanted to writer a novel, aren't you? Why 4 AM? Because, no one is going to call you at this hour, your family will still be asleep, no one is going to ring the doorbell, there are no loud neighbors, or loud sounds of traffic, or anything at all. And 4AMis the hour of the wolf. It's when the muses come out of their shells to haunt the minds of people and put ideas in there. So, if you manage to wake up at 4AM and write even ten days, I can guarantee you that you'll be done with more than 50k in that time. The idea here, again is NOT to stay awake till 4AM and then write, but to sleep early and then wake up at 4AM. You can go back to sleep once you're done with your word count.

Alternatively, you can choose any time of the day when there are less interruptions so that you can write in peace. But my personal bet is 4AM.

Next Post: The actual story.

Oct 17, 2013

Some Thoughts About NaNoWriMo (Part 1 of 3)

There is a book in each one of us and most of the times it's not a very good book. But even the suckiest book that has been written is hundred times better than the most amazing, fantastic, blockbuster book that lives and dies in your head. (We've all had some of those, haven't we?)

For anyone looking from the outside, writing books by making up things looks like fun work! They think that people sit in front of their laptops and hammer out books by the dozen and then live all their life comfortably drowning in wine, women and wow life.


I won't say more than that.

On to NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. Actually, any month can be a novel writing month, but there is some weird positive force associated with large groups doing stupid things together. There is this sense of "Community" that tells people that maybe the impossible is just a little bit possible. It's not, most of the times, but the weight of the crowd is often enough to carry everything forward till the lines blur and the differences don't matter anymore.

So, in November, people from all over the world decide to write novels they might have been thinking about for the whole year. A noble endeavor, even though more than half of them quit in the first week and only a fraction of the people who start make it to the 50,000 word limit by the last day of November. Because, unlike some people think above, writing even the shittiest novel is work. It's hard work. It can make you tear out your hair in frustration, ignore your daily life, become addicted to a number of drugs and do wonders for your ability to sit in a chair and procrastinate.

But, and it's a beautiful but, it can be done. And next up, we (you and I) will create the mindset and conditions needed to complete the NaNoWriMo without losing our minds and create something that is something slightly better than a pile of steaming shit at the end of November.

Oct 1, 2013

What should *i* blog about?

TL; DR Write whatever the fuck you want.

The Long Version
The first ever blog I made was in 2003 on a very simple website called Blurty.com. That blog is still there and no I am not going to tell you the address. For me, it is a reminder of where I've come from and I often go back to that blog to read the posts that were simply horrendous and in complete disregard of some of the rules of blogging that I follow here (I follow rules, heh, who'd have thought).

So, what did I blog about back then? 

Who the fuck cares? I don't. Really, most of that shit is just cryptic ramblings of a person has been exiled from his only home and thrown in a new environment without any safety of parents, a place he knows or friends. It was a confusing time and so were those blog posts. So be it.

So, how does that relate to now?

That relates to now in the sense that none of us can see the future, (I talked about this some posts back, you can scroll down after you're done reading), BUT, the beauty of time is that all of us can see the pastas long as we manage to remember it. 

And to remember it, we must catalog it. And nothing is better than writing about it to maintain a steady/unsteady log of whatever is happening right now, so that you can reference to it in future.Your memory will fail you in future. That's guaranteed. Do you remember what you ate for lunch on 1 October, 2012? or how you were feeling? or what nice, awesome or terrible thing happened to you? You probably don't, UNLESS you wrote it down in a blog, a diary or on a wall with the blood of your enemies.

Coming back to the question, "What should I write about?"

The answer is that I don't give a fuck what you write about. You should not either. Just write whatever the fuck you want. No one cares. Your blog is not a newspaper that people will read and write angry letters to the editor about. Write about your day, the weather, three nice things, or 100 nice things that happened to you today, keep a gratitude journal, keep a journal of your evil megalomaniac schemes to take over the world, or whatever.

And you should do it because your time is fleeting, and when you're older it's fun to remember.

That's all for now. Tomorrow, maybe I'll talk about the HOW of writing. Or not.

Got a word to say? hit me on twitter, @69fubar. I won't bite unless you give me a reason to. Then I'll tear your face off and wear it as a mask for the rest of the day.