In Deccan Gymkhana, Pune

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When your room comes with a blessedly green view (complete with chirpy bird sounds) and you finally have the time to open that book you have been forever meaning to read, all the while keeping one ear cocked to soak in the rain splashing against the glass window and slowly, gradually, allowing yourself to get lost in the world created by a master storyteller…. I confess, this is certified nirvana for any writer (or reader!)


As most of you know, I am in Pune now, to attend the launch ceremony of my debut novel, The Gurukul Chronicles. I will also be speaking about it and reading excerpts on Saturday afternoon at Pune Litfest! I love meeting fellow writers and readers, so do Contact me if you are in Pune and want to connect 🙂


P.S.: I and my parents are staying at this cute Treebo property off Bandarkar Road, which boasts a fabulous jogging track right next to it. I just about swooned today morning as I walked in the middle of the track, with tall trees and bamboo around me, the temperature being a cool 23 degrees. More pics will be posted soon 🙂

One year later…

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Exactly 365 days ago, this happened. My debut novel THE GURUKUL CHRONICLES won the manuscript contest at Pune International Literature Festival!

PILF 2016 Winner announcement

That’s me on the far right, in the beige kurta top, receiving the good news from Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy (standing next to me is Piorre Hart, the other winner of the manuscript contest).

And now, the book is published and available on Amazon! Here’s the cover page :). Do join me for its official launch at Pune on Sep 8, 2017, at the inaugural session of PILF 2017, to be held at YASHADA, Pune. 




Interview: Bragadeesh Prasanna, Novelist

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Bragadeesh Prasanna, author of 300 Days, is a beloved member of the writing group WRITERS’ INK, which I moderate in Chennai. Recently, he completed the first draft of a short novel called Waterboard, a 46000 word novel in the span of 18 days! Here’s a peek into his writing habits and methodology:

Can you tell us how you wrote a first draft in such a short time? This is even better than NaNoWriMo where people aim to write 50000 words in 30 days! Did you write consistently every day? Or did you have ups and downs?

Waterboard happened out of the blue. I had lost some of my memories and was totally dependent on few people to tell me what is what. I had been thinking about different scenarios which could happen in future, if I don’t rectify it. That was how Waterboard happened. Writing is therapeutic to me. I was going through one of the toughest phase in my life last August and the only solace I had was writing. I wrote every day and I didn’t care about the word count. Some days I clocked 10K words and some day, just 800 words. Sprints helped too.

 What is your fav time to write?

5.30 to 7.30 in the morning works for me. I do my morning pages first and then start working on the word document. Somehow the words flowed this time and there were no hiccups

 Do you use only laptop to write? Did you take backup every day?

Yes I use only laptop. I send email to myself after my two hour writing session. Partially because I could open and read it in office or in my mobile whenever I had time.

 Any favorite writing rituals that specially works for you?

Long walks. It may sound narcissistic. There is a speech assistant in iPhones. I’d convert the document to epub and feed it to ibooks and then I would start my walk in the evening, usually 4Kms, listening to it. I sometimes changed the whole chapters, sometimes I liked what I wrote. But the walks helped a lot. And the artist’s way morning pages do help. I am not doing anything in artist’s way except for the morning pages. But it brings a good flow.

 How do you make sure no one interrupts you when you are writing?

Advantages of being a male. I lost my phone, so that was a blessing. Plus when I am at laptop my parents as well as colleagues don’t disturb me. They know I cannot bear distractions until 9 AM and so they respect my mental space, I guess (which is great!). Till then dad supplied unlimited coffees and generally encouraged me.

Did the entire first draft come to you in one single flow? Did you have a outline beforehand?

I really wanted to outline. But I couldn’t. I just wrote it in a single flow. Sometimes it was frustrating because I knew there was something interesting coming up in the following chapters but I had to type fast and I couldn’t wait to get there. This was weird but good weird.

What do you do when you get stuck? Usually, people leave the WIP alone for some days and then revisit it again… clearly you didn’t employ this method. What’s your secret?

When I get stuck, I read. I have a bunch of books in my mobile and laptop just so that I can get inspiration. For this novel, the movie The Eternal sunshine of the Spotless Mind ran in loop for the inspiration sake. The story line was somewhat similar to waterboard but the way people reacted in the novel was totally different.  But it gave me a lot of ideas.

Waterboard is actually based on your personal experience, viz., your memories of accident. So can it be termed as autobiographical?

Waterboard has elements that happened to me – but not exactly. We all go back and go forth with the question “What if”. The novel is result of that question. Though I wanted to keep it as natural as possible, I had to write some scenes/situations I had never faced. I just had to imagine, what would I do or the person with my condition do if he was put in such a situation. I am not sure if it can be termed autobiographical. Biographical maybe, because I had to move away from me and look at me.

Do you think you can write a fully fictional story also in this same manner, that is, within a month?

I think I can. That is what I am trying to do with the next one, which is tentatively named as Amar Chitra Katha. But as I dwell on the story and the idea I bring up so many situations which will increase the word count. But I think it is definitely doable.

Any inspiring words for those who want to write consistently every day?

Check out morning pages. It gives us motivation to write every day. It would be very difficult to hold on to it initially, in the first two weeks. It was difficult for me during that initial period, but now, when I turn back I had been writing for five months every day in the morning. As a result, it doesn’t feel weird when I sit in front of the laptop. I never have to face a blank document again.

To indulge or rein in?

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Earlier today I had a conversation with a writer friend.

Her: What do I do, during my first draft’s resting period? You know, when I have finished typing THE END and then walk away from the manuscript for a week (or three)?

Me: Ideally, you should also take rest. Authors need rest too!

Her: But shouldn’t I make use of this rest time productively– like, working on my next novel – outlining, perhaps?

Me: I don’t see why. I personally think, after working for months, you’d deserve a little break. Not just for health’s sake, of course, but also so that your mind is completely fresh; when you go back to your rested draft, you can do full justice to the editing process…

Her: But sometimes I get really good ideas only when I am working on one project…


This brought me to a scene I read in some long forgotten novel. The child wanted to keep playing into dinner time, and when his mom protested that it’s too late, he erupts into a howling… and this woman (the adult, with real, justifiable power), terrified of being shouted at or “hated” by her own child, pleads with the child to see reason but ultimately allows him to do whatever the tantrum-throwing munchkin wanted to do…

Let’s forget the fact that there is a whole room of background story behind this plot, and just concentrate on the scene. And substitute ‘child’ with ‘muse’.

How many of us really try to discipline our muse?

Not many. Otherwise my friend would not have felt like she ought to have listen to her muse – which is what we call the talent or inclination that makes on write (or sculpt or paint), without analyzing the pros and cons. Since I myself have been in the same position many times – proof is the N number of unfinished projects in my computer – I now saw what I ought to have seen a long time back.


My muse is not my friend.

My muse is not God.

My muse is… a child.

A brilliant child. A child with astonishing possibilities and magical capacities. But… a child nevertheless, who needs to be taught certain concepts like routine and discipline.

Chiming in here for a good word about Julia Cameron, who calls the muse as the “inner artist child” who must be indulged every week.

Now, indulgence is a very tricky word.

Investing in a Lindt bar, one of the best chocolates in the world, and eating it after a hard week’s work, on a Saturday night, listening to some jazz and reading your favorite author – that’s indulgence. A bloody good one.

Stuffing your face with three bars of commercial grade Snickers, after a heavy meal, feeling guiltier by the minute – also indulgence, but well, sad, too.

You should definitely not let your inner muse grow a hollow stomach. But the problem is when we do not know what the line is, between starving it and over indulging it.

Your inner muse may say, “Wow! You have finished a draft! Submit it asap so that everyone can see what an awesome writer you are and treat you like royalty!”

Your inner muse may say, “Who needs feedback or language classes? You can write a clear sentence that is simple enough for the common man in India to read, that’s more than enough. You can always pay someone to clean up your writing.”

Your inner muse may say, “This project that is half done now is boring! I want to do something else NOW! I WANT I WANT I WANT!”

Doesn’t mean it’s right. Doesn’t mean you should do it.

There is a reason why the artist and her talent/muse/whatever name you give it are fused together in the same body. Each needs one another. The muse infuses the human with the magic of creativity and fills the hole in her artist (the reason why artists are only happy when creating and sour like a lemon when they are not). In return – this is a very vital point, often underestimated – the artist also feeds the muse, by giving the muse the ambience, exposure and nourishing she needs (this includes but not limited to education, travel, creative play, everyday sadhana etc)

Not many practice this symbiotic relationship with the right balance.

Nobody’s to blame here, really. If anything, I blame this society of ours which raises our kids with almost zero respect or practice of their true artistic abilities. There are no special tuition classes or regular workshops in the syllabus for arts, are they? (And no, I do not consider colouring books or clay making to be practice of a true artistic ability.) We are full adults before we discover that our artistic ability needs attention. If by luck, if our profession and passion align in the same field, then great! That’s the ideal scenario, though. Most often than not, especially as writers, we are able to work on our pet projects only sporadically. “Whenever I get time” seems to be the mantra.

No wonder we do not know that our muse needs a regular time table. No wonder we don’t know how exactly we should treat this special talent.

As an aspiring artist, we do not dare to control this muse of ours. We don’t dare to question it, make it sweat, challenge it. We are so grateful to it, we feel so blessed to be gifted this talent, that we walk around egg shells when it comes to demanding our muse to perform regularly. It’s why, when it comes to writing every day or writing several books a year (like many, many professional writers do), we wait like a humble servant for the Emperor to make his appearance, rather than behave like a scowling newspaper editor who wanted the article YESTERDAY.

This is also the same reason why feelings of disgruntlement, anguish, frustration, general dissatisfaction in life and nervous breakdowns are rampant amidst artists and writers (I don’t see this from, say, bank or government employees), because it really is a tough to job to reign in a truant muse or make her perform when you want her too. It’s almost like a cartoon, where you fight with yourself.


But that’s the good news about adulthood. You can learn. Starting now.

Learn good practices of your art. Read. Read crafts books, and articles on the art and practice of regular art, be it writing or painting. Read Eric Maisel’s books. Read Julia Cameron’s books. They are among the few books in the world that actually teach you how to live as a creative artist. Experiment with various genres, techniques and stick to the one that gives you the most joy. Accept that this is hard work, don’t get sucked in the marketing/sales quicksand, and move on to the next phase of creation: using your good sense logic and preference find out the right working methods that work for you.

And be very clear that what the muse needs, is a firm hand.

A Mom who says, gently but firmly, “Enough! You listen to ME now. I make the rules, and I expect you to obey me.”

A Dad who says, “Why thank you, Muse, for that fantastic idea! I am going to make a note of it right here, but I am not going to start working on it until I finish my current project.” Or, “Yeah I know I can write, but I don’t want to be just one among the rest, I want to be GREAT, so I am going to wait for some time before I rush into self publishing.”

Like all spoilt children, your muse may rebel first. She might throw tantrums – just when you want to work, you might get this itchy nudges of “Should I not clean the house before sitting to write?” or “I am feeling so bored, restless… Perhaps I should start another project.” You may even get physical rebellion like headaches or stomach upset. Your mind/muse (sometimes these two are in the same sphere) has incredible power over your actions – it’s perfectly capable of giving you actual pain during this disciplinary process.

If you give in now, then you are back to square one.

All parents know that boundaries work only as long as you are there on the periphery, guarding it. So guard yours.


Remember that you cannot be a one book wonder. Or a one art piece exhibitor. Or someone who can only write (transcribe) about their own life experiences. You are an artist only as long as you keep creating, variedly and getting better. And yes, you need to train your muse to show up regularly and to adhere to the techniques that work for you.

A child disciplined in the right way grows up to be a good human – not a perfect one, but a good one, and sometimes, true goodness is much better than perfection, right? Give your muse the same care, and watch it repay you for your hard work in unbelievable future dividends!

A Writer’s Day Out

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So that’s one item ticked off in the bucket list!

I am talking about the two days I had spent in Madurai this month, with over 25 young women who attended my workshop “A WRITER’S LIFE”. I was also the Keynote speaker and chief guest at Arcadia, the annual day of the Literature department at Lady Doak College; it was a fabulous experience, not only because I love talking <cough*preaching*cough> to young minds, but also because it gave me a peek into the current reading habits of Young India (South Indian edition).


Here’s what I learned:

  1. New adults (17-22 years old) like to read love stories. They all have read Chetan Bhagat, Ravinder Singh and Shakespeare.
  2. No, they do NOT want to read meaningful, poignant literature. They prefer books that can give them a break from reality.
  3. Only a few of them have read Tolkien (!!!). Yes, they prefer realistic fiction to fantasy.
  4. Most of them know about Kindle and a couple of them have actually self-published their works online.
  5. In my keynote address, I spoke about David Copperfield and Jane Eyre being YA books (of their time) and the teachers heartily agreed.
  6. The students clapped a lot and took selfies with me. I felt shy, proud and old.
  7. All of them have promised to read YA fiction, and were quite thrilled about it!

Moral of the story: Write love stories with happy endings. Save the angst for another audience!



FAQ to a Writing Group Moderator

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Eight months into the year and I have finally realized my long time dream of creating and moderating a real-time writing group! Yoohoo. Here is a list of the Top 5 questions folks ask me, when they hear about Chennai Writers’ Ink.

  1. So what do you actually do in this writing group?

We meet once a month on second Saturdays from 4:30pm until people are ready to leave! The agenda revolves around three components: Critique each others’ submissions; attempt a short, timed writing exercise and read it aloud; discuss and share thoughts on the art, craft and business of fiction writing. Our primary goal is get our novels finished and our fiction fine-tuned, and this we do by critiquing each others’ works. There is an official googlegroup email thread where WIPs and documents are exchanged securely. We practice the adage: “Help others, and thus help yourself.”


  1. Why are you so keen on managing a writers’ community? I mean, how important is it really in the big picture?

It’s the difference between living alone in a house on a deserted street and living alone in a hut in a commune. Each has its merits, but sooner or later, the commune wins. Writing is a solitary act, and there comes a point in every writer’s life where they need some literary companionship. I have long wondered (and cribbed and ranted and moaned) at the dearth of writing groups in Chennai / India. Then one day I just got tired of my own whining and started a group myself. If you want to know more about the backstory of this venture, please click here.


  1. Why the insistence on critiquing each other’s works? Shouldn’t a writing group be… writing?

You’re right, writing is an act that does not need outsiders’ help. But getting feedback on your writing… yep, now that is a different thing. That’s the only way you can learn what works and what doesn’t work in your writing. And most importantly, correct it at the beginning itself. As writers, we become blind to our own works so we need to get a perspective from a third person. And who better than fellow writers? By critiquing each other’s works, we learn to identify the right and wrong writing techniques. It’s like going to part time MFA writing school, without the $$$ fees, grading and snobbish atmosphere. Nice, right?


  1. But you restrict group membership at 10! How can it really help all those people keen on becoming writers?

Hmm, good question. I can see you’re itching to call us selfish. But you see, selfishness is much preferable to stupidity. This is the first lesson writers learn. You cannot save the world. You can attempt or try to save may be like, three people in the world. Ideally one, but three is max. But not the entire world. If you attempt to do so anyway, not only is it a waste of time and resources, it also results in the destruction of joy, peace and all things sane. Because, as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

TBH, I would love to add the entire writing population of Chennai in the group so that our city becomes what London is to the literary world, but past experience has taught me that a crit group cannot handle more than a dozen writers at a time. Any bigger than that, focus and conversation shift to all topics other than writing. And the more people, the more chances of someone taking offence at something and souring the entire equation. A smaller, intimate group can grow together as a family, but a larger group tends to be split into cliques and eventually leads to anarchy.

And I can’t moderate anarchy (no bandwidth). Ergo, membership cap at 10.


  1. So, that’s it? Only 10 members? No chance for others?

Yes, if capacity is full in this group I am moderating. But if you would like to start a writing group in your neighbourhood, just shoot me a mail and I will give you all my tools and survival tips. Free. Because that’s how, sometimes, the world has the chance of being saved.

Remember the 3 people I told you about? If they help 3 more people and those 3 people help 3 more people… yes, exactly, what they call paying it back, grassroots level. If someone is inspired by our Writers’ Ink group and is willing to take up the responsibility of starting a writing workshop in their neighbourhood (and moderating it – because you must be the change you are willing to see), I would be most delighted to pass on all my trade secrets and together, we can save the world.

I will wait for your call.

What’s Your Langolier?

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For fans of Stephen King, a Langolier is a scary entity that eats your time. It’s make believe of course, and a proof of the incredible creativity of the Ultimate King of Horror. But these days, its existence looks more and more like fact and not fiction. Judging by the amount of time we spend organising our life and going through established routines like job and family obligations, it is so easy to lost track of how time is slipping away from us.

During my mid-year review – please tell me you too evaluate your last six months’ progress, personally and professionally, or else I am going to feel like a freak – I was dismayed to realise that I had been spending more and more time online during the day, and then working only when the deadline approached. Now, we all know of the deadline crunch adrenaline rush, and how it serves as a catalyst to push us into overdrive and get that work done, but what worried me was that I was sacrificing my days to the online world. And you know what they say… How you spend your day is how you spend your life.


Back in 2009 when I was studying in London, there was an unspoken code of conduct. If it’s sunny outside, no one was indoors (obviously I am not talking about those who have to be indoors, such as office folks). That part of the world gets so few bright and clear days that it was considered a crime to be indoors. People were outside as much as possible and enjoyed the good weather (often with barbeque and pool parties!), before it disappeared. If at all I refused to come out, my friends would cry, “But it’s so nice outside! Don’t waste such a good day by staying in!”

So. I have been wasting a lot of day time, going on social media and binge watching boxed sets, when I should have been making use of the day. That’s the problem with being a freelancer – if you’re not careful (or disciplined), you can lose the plot pretty quickly. It’s disgustingly easy to lose yourself in distractions when there is no one to report to.


If you have been following my blog, you would know that my goal for this year is to edit the 10 chapter books I completed last year + edit the book I wrote for Nanowrimo 2014 + write a new novel for Nanowrimo 2015. It became very clear that unless I did something about my (bracing myself here) internet addiction, I am not going to reach that goal.

As immediate damage control, I have adapted this same policy. I am not facebooking or watching TV when it’s bright outside (except for sundays – we all need cheat days, otherwise we’re doomed). FB &TV will be a purely chill out session after I complete my day and am ready to unwind. I have already disabled notification emails to my inbox so now I have to manually arrive at FB to check all my notifications. And I am happy to say, I have already seen the results of this enforced curfew – my WIP has progressed very well, and I also feel more connected to the outside world. More… free.


Now, this is where you come in. I have some questions for you:

1. Can you take a few minutes to find yourself a quiet corner and go over the last 6 months of your life? Preferably with a notepad and pen in your hand, or at least your smartphone/ipad? Yes? Good!

2. Now, close your eyes and ask yourself: What have you achieved so far in the last 6 months and are you happy about it?

3. What have you NOT achieved, and why? What (or who) is holding you back?

4. Where are you losing your goal / time / power? What are you going to do about it?

5. Write down the answers and make sure you re-read them the next day. Then start thinking about possible solutions.

I know… these are very tough questions to ask yourself. But they are extremely helpful in understanding where you are right now and how you can be better. If you need to share the revelations with some one, feel free to contact me 🙂