Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Week 3- Stage 2- Research

Week 3-  Stage 2- Research
Total Number of Pages of Brainstorming- 60
Total Number of Weeks- 12
Pages Per Week- 5
Reading- 300+ pages a week

What is the research?
The definition of research is, the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.

Is research needed for fiction?

Is research REALLY needed to write fiction?
Even more so than if you are writing non-fiction.

First topic of research: What is the genre of your novel? 
It's okay if you don't know the genre right away, but keep in mind that you will have to find out the answer to this question before you will send your novel to literary agents. 

What is the genre of my novel #IAm16ICan? 

I write psychological upmarket thrillers. 
Read Carly Watters’s Blog about how to find out the genre of the book to figure out if your novel is:
  1. Literary
  2. Upmarket
  3. Commercial
What role research plays in fiction writing?
I often quote my own self (go to DSM and find what narcissist personality disorder looks like, I qualify 7/7. Okay, it’s because I wanted to score full points. On modest days I score 6/7.)
Quote: Follow the math, music will follow
When I write a novel, I don’t want to talk in air. I don’t want the readers to feel cheated because if a writer in his laziness doesn’t put the facts correct, the reader DOES feel cheated.
My novel #IAm16ICan an ambitious project for this reason. I was talking about RAPE.  And it’s not an easy topic to research about for three reasons:
  1. It is too prevalent and therefore it’s always in “news”
  2. The myths around rape float as much in the air as the RAPE floats in society
  3. The systematic study on the topic is insufficient to say the least. There are few books that present scientific understanding of this complex crime.

It took me two years to research for the novel. 

I assign twelve weeks to research but it varies from novel to novel. Sometimes the research takes much longer, sometimes the novel is written first and fast without research and then additional research is needed to make it REAL. I am still researching for Book 2 Yin Yang Series . I am over with the first draft of this novel. 

For next twelve weeks, I will talk about 10 sources of information to research on any given topic. These are the sources I use, please feel free to add your sources of research in comment section. Of course I don’t use the sources week vise, but it’s easier to talk about them week by week.
10 Sources to Research Material for Novels:
  1. Non-fiction books
  2. Fiction books
  3. Psychology books (Genre specific books)
  4. Films and Television
  5. Websites
  6. Newspaper and Magazine Articles
  7. Places
  8. People
  9. Social Media 
  10. Any other

Non-fiction Books as source of research material
I am a fiction writer, so I must be reading fictions to better my craft, right?
I read equal number of fiction and non-fiction books.
It was a demand of my novel #IAm16ICan that I understand the psychological, political, legal and social aspects of the society and the crime I am portraying. I can’t make errors of judgment. I can’t let my emotion about the crime- RAPE- stand in my way of creating an authentic character of a rapist. I need to delve deeper in the mind and figure out how a rapist would think.
And therefore, the non-fiction books that I read helped me exercise my mental muscles to reach to a portrait of a rapist that is close to reality. 

Some noteworthy books that helped me with my research are:
  1. Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape by Susan Brownmiller 
  2. Men Who Rape: The Psychology of the Offender by A. Nicholas Groth 
  3. A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion by Randy Thornhill  and Craig T.Palmer 
  4. The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker 
  5. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt 
  6. Lucky by Alice Sebold
  7. No matte how loud I shout: A Year in the Life of Juvenile Court Reprint Editionby Edward Humes
  8. Juvenile Justice System in India: From Welfare to Rights by Ved Kumari 
  9. I Am the Central Park Jogger: A Story of Hope and Possibility by Trisha Meili
  10. Juvenile Delinquency: Theory, Practice, and Law by Larry J. Siegel and Brandon C. Welsh
  11. Human Rights and Inhuman Wrongs by V.R. Krishna Iyer How to Win Every Argument: The Use and Abuse of Logic by Madsen Pirie 
  12. Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us by Robert Hare 

I am not writing a socio-political-psychological thriller. I am writing a simple love story. Do I still need to spend 12 weeks on research?
If you are following METHOD WRITING then YES. 
Let me take you back to the origin of the term Method Writing. It comes from Konstantin Stanislavsky's term Method Acting- remember? 

Now, to brief you about method acting. In the dramatic artsmethod acting refers to a range of techniques for training actors to achieve better characterizations of the characters they play. And the more artless (I use artless as a compliment) you want your work to seem, the more craft you will have to bring in your writing. 
It's extremely difficult to write simple things in simple ways. 
If your novel is a SIMPLE LOVE STORY, you will have to work double hard to make sure that you are talking about the inner dynamics well enough that it appeals to the readers universally. 
Now I never say that a novel needs to appeal to every reader. NO. 
It's okay if your target audience is 100 people in the whole wide world, but it has to reach to those people in such intimate ways that they feel wow and Aha! after putting down the book. That's critical. 
Think of the movie Before Sunrise and Good Will Hunting, are they simple stories? Yes.
Do you think it would be easy to write films like that? Are you kidding me? It's damn difficult.

Now, it is fine if you don't find a single reader in your lifetime who feels this way about your work because as famous Sanskrit poet Bhavbhuti said, kalay anantou vipulach pruthvi. Which means, the time is eternal and world is wide. (I will find the person who will understand my work). 
All I am saying here is NEVER- here comes my favorite word- POSTULATE- because you are writing on a simple subject, your writing will be an easy process. It's much more difficult to touch people's hearts and minds saying simple things than it is to make them move talking about High Concept stories. 
High concept stories spread wide. Subtle stories penetrate deep. 
Example- The Mahabharata and the Ramayana 
More recent example- Lord of the Rings 

What is a High Concept Story? 

This is the book which was most useful to me as research material for my novel. But the books you will read as part of the research for your novel will be different. 
Brownie Points for Reading: 
Against Our Will by Susan Brownmiller 

Walk the Talk: Goal for This Week
I need to finish Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
I need to write 5 pages 

Did I walk the talk? Work in Progress: Book 3 Yin Yang
I read 60 pages on Monday and then 30+ 30 pages on Tuesday and Wednesday. 
In Real World:
Excerpt from Research Pages of #IAm16ICan
What pages of work in progress look like? 
Saturday, January 25, 2014
  • Free will- The view that youths are in charge of their own destinies and are free to make a personal behavior choices unencumbered by environmental factors.
  • Adolescent limited offenders- Offenders who follow the most common delinquent trajectory; in which antisocial behavior peaks in the adolescent and then diminishes.
  • Early onset- The view that kids who begin engaging in antisocial behavior at the very early age are the ones most at risk of a delinquent career
  • Social capital- Positive relations with individuals and institutions, as in a successful marriage or a successful career, that support convention behavior and inhibit deviant behavior.
The source of mass movement’s unity and vigor, is a sacrifice, an act of atonement, and clearly no atonement is called for unless there is a poignant sense of sin
Hands across America- On May 25, 1986, more than five million people paid 10 dollars to join hands, all at the same time, and form a line that stretched 4152 miles from New York to California… all to raise money for the hungry and homeless and to call attention to America’s poor. It was called Hands across Amerca.
In my novel, they will hold hands from Bangalore to Delhi. Distance between Delhi and Bangalore is 2121 km.
  • 5 Factor theory of personality
  • Dark Triad
  • Disorder of social hiding- psychopathy
  • The billboard of the person- how he is selling himself
  • Narcissist personality or Histrionic personality?
    See you guys next week.

    When I say PAGE, I mean Courier Final Draft Font- 1.5 Space. Approximately 300 to 400 words
    When I say HE, I mean both genders. 

    Follow Week By Week Process of Method Writing: 
    36 Weeks Program to Finish a Novel
    Week 1- Stage-1: Brainstorming 
    Week 2- Stage- 1: Brainstorming 

    Kirtida Gautam is a clinical psychologist and the author of the novel #iAm16iCan Follow her on Twitter @KirtidaGautam

    Monday, 18 January 2016

    Edited Excerpt #IAm16ICanRape: The War Against Rape Culture. Point of View- Shrini

    Edited Excerpt #IAm16ICanRape: The War Against Rape Culture.

    Point of View- Shrini
    “Shrini, is this true?” Harry asks in an urgent tone.
    I am sick of answering this question so for her sake I hope that she won’t ask it.
    “What is true?”
    “Aarush is arrested for a rape?”
    “That’s what they say.”
    “How exciting!”
    What! Did I hear her correct?
    “What did you say?”
    “I have never been around someone who is accused of…”
    “Harry, do you have faintest idea how sick you sound when you say such things?”
    “Don’t be a prude,” she sits facing me, “in some weird ways, this whole media circus around us, IS exciting. Is it not?”
    I have no energy in me to sit with her, sharing her excitement that my best friend is arrested for rape so I pay for my coffee and leave for the class.

    Wednesday, 13 January 2016

    Week 2- Stage 1- Brainstorming

    Week 2-  Stage 1- Brainstorming
    Total Number of Pages of Brainstorming- 100
    Total Number of Weeks- 2
    Pages Per Week- 50

    Did I walk the talk?
    I am on schedule. I am over with week 1. I wrote 50 pages of Book 3 Yin Yang. Most of the times, during the first week when I write, the pages are reflection of what I am going through at that stage in life. 

    It's important to write these pages because until I have purged out my concerns, I can't pay attention to my characters. My characters behave like Hannibal Lector many a times. We have a Quid Pro Quo. They ask me things about my life. I have to tell them my secrets before they give me any information about themselves. So, this is how generally the first two weeks go. 

    Why it is absolutely important to write these 100 pages? 

    Every writer feels the uncertainty that the writing process brings. It doesn't matter if it's the first book or the tenth book. The question a writer faces is, "Will I be able to write anything?" 
    When the writer forces himself to finish the 100 pages even when they are nothing but ruminating on page, the writer has crossed the first hurdle. He can see and smell these 100 pages. They are real. He knows he can do the physical action of typing and writing. 
    Have you seen Karate Kid? 
    Do you remember the scene when the Master gives a very simple physical task and asks the apprentice to repeat it again and again? And before the apprentice realizes, he has learnt an important martial arts lesson! 
    Something similar happens when the writer forces himself to write the 100 pages of brainstorming. 

    If you are following the course, by this week, the first stage will be over and we will move to the next stage-- RESEARCH. 

    Brownie Points for Reading: 
    The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

    Walk the Talk: This week, I plan to write 50 pages for Book 3 of Yin Yang.

    See you guys next week.

    In Real World:
    Excerpt from Brainstorming Pages of #IAm16iCan
    I don’t know. I have no idea. Tell me one thing you can finish fast. I can finish some reading. Hmmm. Rape. Yaar, I don’t know. I can’t go on like this. I feel stupid. This brainstorming is turning into morning pages. I feel truly stupid for thinking you can help me finish my book if I stick to whatever it is that you want me to do. I know you are a sucker. You will not help me with anything at all. I am doomed to fail. It sucks to fail again and again. I tell people that I am working when I know that all I am doing is filling pages with my nonsensical mental chatter. You want me to believe that anything logical will come out of this. I don’t think. I honestly don’t think that anything can come out of this mental masturbation.
    I learnt that I don’t know anything. My incompetence is haunting me. I can’t form correct sentences and that haunts me too. But there is a voice in my liver that says, “You will figure out a way”. That is the weird part. I always knew that the voice is not coming from my heart but from my liver.

    Rule-1- Keep writing 10 pages
    Rule-2- No matter how strongly you feel you are not ready; write what you have to write- 10 pages of what you have to write
    Rule-3- Keep reading 1 fiction and 1 non-fiction book alternate weeks. Set a target of reading 50 books a year and watching 50 movies.
    Bus (Hindi vala Bus), there are no more rules.
    These are the 3 rules you can’t disobey if you want a successful writing career. 
      When I say PAGE, I mean Courier Final Draft Font- 1.5 Space. Approximately 300 to 400 words
      When I say "he" I mean both genders. 

      Follow Week By Week Process of Method Writing: A 36 Weeks Program to Finish a Novel
      Week 1- Stage-1: Brainstorming 

      Kirtida Gautam is a clinical psychologist and the author of the novel #iAm16iCan Follow her on Twitter @KirtidaGautam

      Monday, 4 January 2016

      Week 1- Stage 1- Brainstorming

      Week 1-  Stage 1- Brainstorming
      Total Number of Pages of Brainstorming- 100
      Total Number of Weeks- 2
      Pages Per Week- 50

      I don’t like to use the adjective GREAT for anything. It gives a sense of megalomania. I like the adjective GOOD ENOUGH. It gives a sense of struggle. It tells that someone has put the effort.  Good Enough has character. I like when things give me a sense of their texture and smell. I like the words that can reach to my senses and Good Enough is a Good Enough word for me for that purpose.

      I wrote my first novel #IAm16iCan. And I perceive it as a Good Enough debut work. (Here comes the narcissism, figure out the subtext.) I test marketed the book and received feedback from peers and readers that reassures my faith in the work.

      After #IAm16iCan, I wrote another novel which I am self-editing at the moment. That is also Good Enough in the opinion of my Beta Readers. I am currently writing the third novel and therefore I feel I am in a Good Enough place to talk about the process I follow.

      I am writing this blog because some of my readers wanted to know how I conceived my first book. Now, with my third book, I feel I can ask them to take the ride with me on the journey so they can learn from my experience and I can learn from their experience.

      I call myself a Method Writer. It’s a self-coined term. It is derived from Konstantin Stanislavsky’s school of acting - Method Acting.

      It’s a 36 Weeks Program and consist 7 stages of writing. I thank my mentor, my Guru Anjum Rajabali for teaching me this method for writing screenplays at Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. I have adapted the same method to write novels. 

      When things get in the Belly of the Whale phase, it takes me 36 weeks time to finish my work. With my first book, the 36 weeks time was spread over a course of 2 years. For my second book, the 36 weeks got cramped in 12 weeks.

      What does this mean?
      It means that the time is not the critical criteria. The work is. 

      The 7 Stages of this Method are-
      1. Brainstorming
      2. Research
      3. Story (Premise, Pitch, Treatment)
      4. Character Sketches
      5. Step Out Line
      6. First Draft
      7. Synopsis
      The first stage is called- BRAINSTORMING.
      It’s a stage during which I follow STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS kind of writing.
      I don’t-
      • Stop
      • Censor
      • Let anyone read it (As a matter of fact, I don't let anyone my work in progress. Only my Beta Readers and Editors read my work in progress, it's one of the neurosis I suffer from as a writer.) 

      What do I do?
      • I write
      • I write
      • I write
      Brownie Points for Reading: 
      Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

      Walk the Talk: This week, I plan to write 34 pages for Book 3 of Yin Yang.

      See you guys next week.

      In Real World:
      Following except is what I wrote when I started working on my novel #IAm16iCan
      The readers who have read the novel will notice how different the plot line is from the actual book. That is how Work In Progress looks like. 

      Friday, November 15, 2013
      Another dark night. Again I am in my room next to my laptop. I dread writing all the bullshit I keep writing. Today some interesting points came in my head.
      The gang who rapes Subhangi:
      • Aarush
      • Pratik
      • Vijay
      • Madhav
      These are the 4 boys. Other than Vijay, rest of them are juveniles. There are things. I got to make notes. One of them try to see everything from physics point of view. What is going to be their mentality? 

      I am feeling scared. I know that first time in my life I am going to put myself out there. I will be judged for what I write. People will either like what I write or they will not like it. It scares me to think that they might find my work banal. I don’t want to be perceived stupid. Honestly, I am quite scared. 

      Don’t worry, I stick by my word. You get to come here and start writing. You are going to write 10 pages every day. I will give you the story in due time. I don’t see how that will happen. Moreover even if that happens, I don’t understand how what I will write will make any sense. These are the dark hours of soul and I can be honest. I don’t see myself as a writer. I feel like a fraud all the time. I feel I have been able to fool people in believing that I write good stories but in reality I am not a good story teller. No person would be interested in reading what I will write.

      Major Plot Changes in Final Book:
      1. There are not 4 but 2 boys in gang rape
      2. One of the boys is a math and not physics genius 
      When I say PAGE, I mean Courier Final Draft Font- 1.5 Space. Approximately 300 to 400 words

      Kirtida Gautam is a clinical psychologist and the author of the novel #IAm16iCan. Follow her on Twitter @KirtidaGautam