Saturday, April 30, 2011

Nerdy Main Character

Nerdy guys are the best guys.
I've always had a thing for the guy who can discuss political theories for hours, who loses himself in hours of studying, who is just a little awkward when he approaches a girl.
And glasses.
Love glasses.

So when it came time to think of a male main character, I knew I wanted someone nerdy. But I also wanted to pluck him out of the cliche'. So, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you...

Neil Desai:

Princeton graduate; Rhodes Scholar elect
Social butterfly; makes friends wherever he goes and always buys rounds of drinks
Always late
Well dressed, always carries a messenger bag
Loves his daily coffee with a tablespoon of cream

Samir was my inspiration for this character. They aren't identical but there are many similarities.

(Used this one for his hair)

Who are some of your favorite characters (your own or others)?

Friday, April 29, 2011

grateful for...

*Lavender Sharpies


*Insightful conversations with the best high school English teacher

*Chipper Starbucks baristas

*Smiles from strangers

*Colorful tabs poking out of an edited book

*The purr of a satisfied kitten as she slides across your arm

*Boisterous family dinners

*Pizza made from Trader Joe's pesto dough

*The scent of cinnamon on lightly buttered toast

*Inspiring messages in Dove chocolate wrappers

*Siblings who are so alike and different from you at the same time

*Home videos

*Surprise Dunkin Donuts coffee from your sister

*Fun blogs

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

On Revisions

Did anyone else become even more lost during revisions?

Last night, I planted myself at the bookstore for a few hours. I was ready to change, create, trash. But as I read through the manuscript, I found it boring.
Yes, boring.
But I'm not sure if that idea is tainted with my bias.
So, I considered putting my first few chapters as a blog entry, just to see if any skilled readers had the same sentiment. The wonderful Laura , Gargi, and Rachna have already given me excellent feedback so I thought a few more eyes wouldn't hurt.


Also, I thought I'd share how I started revisions rounds in case it helps anyone else:

1. One round was for each plot/subplot issue
2. Another round was to make sure settings were well written and showed character
3. Dialogue check
4. Each chapter/scene ends with increased tension and higher stakes
5. The themes are clear and consistent

During my zoomed out revision, I will read it out loud to make sure that the rhythm seems appropriate, sentences are worded well, and metaphors make sense.

For those of you who are also revising, good luck!!

because quotes make everything better

Sunday, April 24, 2011

notes from the first chapter of Water for Elephants

Most of us have seen the previews for the movie version of Water for Elephants.
This is one of those books that I finally decided to pluck from my endless list.

I'm not sure how many of you have read it, so there will be no spoilers, but I found that the first chapter broke some "rules" that I thought were important in fiction. Now, I'm confused and unable to settle on the balance between "following the rules" and sticking to your own. My first attempt at a novel was awful simply because I erratically wrote whatever the heck I wanted.
(I just went back and read it for the first time in 2 years and laughed.)

Now, as far as Water for Elephants is concerned,

At the beginning of the novel, there was a prologue.
The first chapter had a strong voice and beautiful writing but did not end with an onset of adventure.
The next chapter was a flashback!

Now, we know that in order to write, we have to not only read but also analyze.
I enjoyed this book even though it strayed from the rules (maybe even because of that)!

How do you know when to go by guidelines for writing?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

on failure

There have been many times---throughout the past few years, especially---when I have failed. Utterly failed. In "big" things and "small". In exercise routines and word counts.
Agent rejections became a regular visitor to my inbox.
Word documents were stowed away, never to travel or be seen by another set of eyes.
A relationship evolved into its unrecognizable, ugly stepsister.
Days were counted in Starbucks cups and fruit salads.

I gave up. Deleted. Threw in many linen towels.
Became a fragmented shell of myself.
Hit rock bottom, not knowing where things would lead, if all of the effort I put in was ever worth it.
Wished I could shrink down my dreams because maybe they were out of reach

But eventually, I moved on.
Realized that measuring life with accomplishments was nice but also quite transient and foolish.
Learned how failure served as a shovel, allowing me to dig towards a firmer peace and self-acceptance.
That maybe the key was to relish each step of the journey and as a result, detach from the destination.

So, here's a thank you
to failing

Sunday, April 17, 2011

stepping outside your life

(Our Friday night view)

After finishing the first draft of the WIP and taking an extremely grueling exam, I was ready for my weekend with Samir.

(Side note: It has been so difficult not to open my Word document. How do you control your temptation?!)

It was my medical school's formal (with a decade/costume theme), so we decided to go as Audrey Hepburn and Paul Varjak from Breakfast at Tiffany's. Holly GoLightly is one of my favorite characters ever! I love the way she coasts through her whimsical life, as though she doesn't have a care in the world when in fact, all of her actions are driven by doubt and a troubled past.

We had an incredible two days of everything and nothing that ended too soon.
As it turns out, it's pretty fun to step outside of your life every once in a while and pretend you are in someone else's. ;)

Friday, April 8, 2011

now what?

What do you do when you finish a project? Do you take a break, crack open a bottle of wine, or get started on some editing?

Here's the thing: I finished my book two days ago, right smack in the middle of my spring break. Hurray, right?
Well, kind of.
I immediately wanted to start editing, even though I knew that was against recommendations. But I couldn't not read it. I couldn't not sift through the pages.

(I've heard that we could all technically edit forever but I hope to edit until the point where I know it's great. Not okay, not good. But great.)

So I buried myself in some lovely books at the mall.This moment of completion was supposed to be fireworks-exciting but instead, I was pelted with a surprising sadness. It's going to be difficult to say goodbye to this story and these characters.

So while I knew I would be experiencing an odd mix of emotions, I never thought wistfulness would be one of them.

Has this ever happened to you?

grateful for...

Plane rides to and from NYC

The turbulence of the twenties (it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, ha ha)

Fine pointed Sharpies

A boyfriend who surprises me with a home cooked 3 course meal one evening and a whimsical brunch the next morning

Role models of all types: Atul Gawande, Nicholas Kristof, Dr. Rosseau, Mom

A world garnished in opportunity

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dreaming of Oxford

I have often said that I miss certain cities the way I miss people.
This sentiment first struck me during my summer at Oxford.
I never thought a location could be so nourishing.

Of course, it was fun trying on a new identity of a chic, English girl; one who makes calls from red phone booths and sprawls across lush lawns with an eager notebook. Not to mention, double decker bus rides through endearingly empty roads, a pond with friendly ducklings, and neglected stairwells that always smelled like wet streets. Vines jealously crawled up the sides of buildings, only satisfied when they kissed a thatched roof. The Indian men who owned Kebab Kid always had hints of flour on their fingertips and I almost wondered if they were born that way.

But there was more...

It was as though every element of the city was carefully selected and preserved, brushed with equal portions of art and practicality

Or maybe it was the knowledge that great ideas came to life here, that maybe they were still tucked into the grass, wall cracks, and cobblestone streets, and you can almost hear them whispering to you, encouraging you to join them.

Isn't there something magical about being in a place where things happened? There's an aura, a life that still lingers

One day I will go back, but until then, I can quench myself with memories...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Thank you and a GIVEAWAY

Hey everyone,

I can't thank you enough for supporting my essay in the NYTimes contest I entered. I just found out this weekend that I won! So, this summer, I'll travel with Nicholas Kristof and blog for the Times. I am beyond thrilled by the support I have received from the incredible blogging community.

There is always so much love going around that I wanted to do a series of giveaways as one way of giving back. Right now,

one prize will be a $20 Amazon Gift
another, a brand new book of your choice (accompanied with some goodies)
and the last, a collection of my dorky office supplies that help the writing process: giant Post Its, fun pens, colored pencils, etc.

To enter, become a follower and leave a comment.
Thank you so much once again, everyone!

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Love how this lion is proudly guarding the New York Public Library.

(I was going to do a post about how much I miss Oxford but am saving that for later. )

Once, I started freaking out about my settings being imperfect. Was I describing the scenes in a way that a reader could picture? Was I grasping the right details while eradicating the unnecessary?

So I frantically began taking pictures when I was in my setting (New York city, of course). I walked over 50 blocks. Along the way, I got into conversations with street cart owners, dog walkers, and nannies pushing strollers. The sun selectively showed itself. Women walked with purpose and confidence in painfully high heels. The subway rattled under the sidewalk.

I was more alive because I was attuned to every detail around me and its dependability, its individuality, its contribution to the rest.

To anyone else, the collection appears quite random.

But to me, it is my beloved settings in pixels and the first spiritual date I've taken with myself in a long, long time.