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Thursday, 17 November 2011

A WRITER'S MANUAL (13 powerful ingredients to make you a prolific writer)


13 powerful ingredients to make you a prolific writer

Publisher: V&S Publishers, New Delhi
Distributed by: Pustak Mahal, New Delhi

Genre: Self-help book (English Writing)




When I was a child, one of the many things that excited my imagination was a railway train. Its vibrant rustling noise would invite me near the track and fervently watch it run with a pace of fleeting time and leaving behind the throbbing impressions of a gone-by dream. My cousin, who was four years elder to me, often accompanied me.  It was he who pointed to me how mighty was the engine that could pull the long train comprised of so many bogies. I know he was as wise as all other elders who, in their utter ignorance, impart a basically wrong knowledge into the minds of their inferiors.  And I was as foolish as any other child of my age that even after watching the train-driver throwing coals into the big burning hole, could never realize that an engine has no power in itself to pull the train. It is the STEAM that makes miracles, and nowadays when steam-trains have ceased to be, the same role is being played by ELECTRICITY.  The energy that actually pulls the train is, thus, far subtle, more powerful and yet hidden from our bare eyes.

For ages, our ‘elders’ have been teaching us that the fluency and potency in our writing comes by our sound knowledge of grammar, rich vocabulary and ample understanding of sentence structures.  They are not wrong ... but once again, the glory of ENGINE is being sung and even though every careful student agrees to the fact that in spite of all grammatical and compositional tactics they have failed in writing even a paragraph of abiding impression, they have not been able to grasp the power actually being exercised by some hidden ‘steam’, some obscure ‘electricity’.

The engine is very important for the running of a train because it has devices and receptacles to control and receive the power generated by steam or electricity but if there is no “power”, then? A sound knowledge of grammar, a wonderful mastery in vocabulary, a deep understanding of syntax are all very important if one wants to improve one’s writing but the power of writing comes from a simpler and subtler entity – a desire to write well.

This book is not written to threaten and intimidate the readers by giving them the wrong information that the engine pulls the train but to unburden their minds by rightly advising them that the ‘power’ to write well is within their grasp, in the reach of their own heart.  This book deals with some basic, simple and genuinely tested ‘elements’ that foster the readers’ desire in this direction and help them identify how to generate and regulate the ‘power’ that is behind a good writing.

A WRITER’S MANUAL is not a tailor-made book available on book-shops in which to find a ‘collection’ of different letters, applications, essays and other ‘marketable’ write-ups in a ‘pick-and-choose’ manner. This is not a ‘bank’ of ‘pre-written’ materials for ‘rush-and-carry’ customers. A WRITER’S MANUAL is a book that lovingly and systematically teaches you how to write anything easily and comfortably using your own knowledge and imagination. This is a self-help book for those who really feel that expressing things in an effective and touching way is all what they want.

Its mastermind approach makes it a profitable book for almost all sorts of learners – high school children, college students, office clerks and correspondents, housewives seeking self-learning, secretaries, content writers, press reporters, and anyone on this earth who thinks he or she is in a learning stage irrespective of age, gender, nationality, education or occupation.

This book will NOT make you a prolific writer or a talented penman unless you feel that urge and desire in your own heart. Great writers are born but good writers are made.  Moreover, this one book in itself cannot guarantee your full success as a writer. First of all, there are many – and more scholarly and usefully written – books on this subject from renowned writers that you must read and, secondly, becoming a good writer is a continuous journey. No matter how many books you have read, you are still a learner.

This is just a capsule book which teaches you some most basic elements that make out a good writer and helps you intensify your desire to learn more by yourself. The interesting fact is that the greatest things in the universe are the simplest things. There should be no fear, no hesitation because you don’t need so much ‘knowledge’ for writing than you need a ‘desire’ to say something. In this fun-filled journey of A WRITER’S MANUAL you will not only learn how to write well but also explore many hidden qualities of your own. THAT’S THE MAGIC OF THIS BOOK.

To reap the best of this book, BE A TRUE STUDENT! You need to follow every rule, every exercise. Even if you consider something very easy or ‘not-important’, do follow the rule, complete each Exercise, act on each Assignment.  The psychology behind any serious achievement is complete obedience, submission, dedication, care and willingness to be patient and diligent. By following each exercise, you will be demonstrating these qualities and, hence, will be entitled to gain proficiency.  All Assignments are not necessarily based on the information supplied in this book. They rather tend to encourage the students and readers to develop their own creativity and learn to find their own resources.

Almost all exercises are very easy. It does not mean you should overlook them.  We should not expect that true knowledge comes only through rigorous and difficult pieces of information and mental stratagem. Knowledge, in its purity, is as simple as a child. Enjoy all the exercises and evaluate your own scores with the help of the ANSWER PAGE.  Relish and act on them as a child, no matter you are a child in your ‘teens’ or in your ‘ties’.

The book starts with a HeartoMeter and ends with the same. Please complete both the HeartoMeters. The HeartoMeter in the beginning tells you, by your own evaluation, where you are starting from – the level of your own writing skill judged by none other but YOU.  As the texts will end, you will be able to re-measure your own progress by again completing the HeartoMeter in the end.

Remember, your writing expresses what YOU are.  Such an important aspect of life cannot be left for chance.  We hope this book will help bring the best in you and best out of you! Welcome to this exciting voyage!


Chapter 1
Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.
- Sir Francis Bacon

Reading, conference and writing are three foundation-stones of the world of knowledge, three vistas through which we can peek into a panoramic universe hitherto unknown.  Without READING, there can be no knowledge.  Of course, in the history of humankind, there have been people who were not ‘well-read’ and still they possessed such knowledge as even the universities would envy them.  Go and look into the records of personalities like Saint Kabirdas, Joan of Arc, William Shakespeare, Tagore, Kalidas, and hosts of other men of letters in the areas of science, industries, arts and literature, politics and economics and so on.  You will see that many of them did not ‘read’ even high school books and yet they imparted matchless knowledge and insight to the human world.

No Knowledge without ‘Reading’ ....

The Microsoft Chairman and one of the richest persons of the world, Bill Gates, does not hail from a ‘great’ academic background. The engineers working under him are ten times more educated than him. Same is the story of Michael Dell, founder of Dell, Inc. – a company famous for its laptops – who did not complete his college. Henry Ford fulfilled his dream of making “horseless” carts by making Ford Motors a worldwide success, but he did not succeed in acquiring even a high school degree.  A figure parallel to Ford who, too, became a legendary wealthy man of the world was Rockefeller. Stepping into his shoes, India’s Dhirubhai Ambani, the founder of Reliance Industries, made an empire from scratch. Both were rarely educated. One of the richest men in Russia, Roman Abramovich, was dropped out of college. Many successful actors and actresses of the world cinema, including Halle Berry, Mina Kumari, Anthony Andrews, Jack Albertson, Woody Allen, Ben Affleck, Tom Hanks, Dilip Kumar, Marilyn Monroe, Julie Andrews, Jennifer Aniston and (the list is endless..) …. did not have any mentionable educational background.  Another striking example is of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of the social networking site Facebook. He is among the youngest Billionaire on Forbes’ list. Though he’s not highly educated, his idea of Facebook tipped him to join the rank of 400 richest people of the USA. Many writers, like Hans Christian Anderson, who became shining stars of the literary firmament, never had proper schooling.  Rabindra Nath Tagore, the Nobel Prize winner poet laureate of India, used to escape school and play out with children. Several sportsmen like Andre Agassi and Sachin Tendulkar had no worthwhile schooling.  The scientists were no exception. Albert Einstein, considered to be a genius of his time and even today, was nothing but a child “mentally slow, unsociable and adrift forever in his foolish dreams“, according to his teacher. Thomas Alva Edison, the most renowned of all scientists for his hundreds of useful inventions, had hearing problem, was scoffed by his classmates, and had to leave school. 

This is not even a fraction of the entire list of great people who never received any formal education. Some of them were not even able to ‘READ’ a letter. Thus, it suggests that ‘Reading’ does not mean reading ‘books’ only. It is said that each man, nay, each creature, in this universe is a ‘book’. Each event has a story to tell, each atom has treasures inside it. Even though these successful people, as mentioned above, did not ‘read’ so many books, they did ‘read’ more important things of life.  They ‘read’ human hearts, they ‘read’ the hidden principles of success, they ‘read’ the laws of nature, they ‘read’ the ups and downs of their life and abstracted the clandestine ‘mantras’ of their inner power.  So, could you understand now that without reading there can be no knowledge? If you want to be a good writer, READ everything … every person … every object … every character … every face … every tear … every smile … everything that attracts you.

However, in a general sense, READING applies to reading of books. The first thing to know in this connection is that whatever we read, occupies the ‘outer level’ of our mind. When we visit a big office, the first establishment we come across is a small but attractive ‘Reception’ area. The Receptionist has all information to be able to respond to your basic queries – where to go for a certain work, whom to meet, what are the procedures, and all sorts of important things! The Receptionist cannot give you a detailed or ‘in-depth’ answer. For that, you have to visit inside and see the right officials.

Reading is like a Receptionist ...

READING is like a Receptionist, sitting somewhere in the outer area of the mind and knowing the basics of many things.  Reading can guide you but it alone cannot give you profound knowledge and insight.  It only activates the ‘information centre’ of the mind. Thus, “reading maketh a full man” – full with information and references!

Howbeit, Reading and writing are closely associated with each other. The more you have read, the better you can write. Allan W. Eckert said: “If you’d be a writer, first be a reader. Only through the assimilation of ideas, thoughts and philosophies can one begin to focus his own ideas, thoughts and philosophies.” Thus, the role of Reading is very clear and can be summed up as such:

  • Reading gives us facts and information and they become the bases of our writing.
  • When we read, our mind becomes influenced and is shaped along the thoughts of the writer. Sometimes, these thoughts have a lifelong influence on us and they make our ‘core values’. That’s why it is important to be careful of what we are reading.
  • When we read different writers, different thought-patterns are imbibed in our mind. To accept some of these thoughts and refuse or neutralize others, our mind assumes an active role. Thus, our own rational power grows and our individual thoughts and principles are crystallized.
  • What we read most, we become. If a person is always in the books of fantasies, his life becomes fantasized itself.
  • The more we read, the more do we become familiar with better expressions, arguments, styles and structures and they all together enrich our writing. 

What’s ‘Active Reading’?

When Reading is such an important factor in making successful writers, it must be given a planned attention in the life of every student -- children and youths in particular because they are truly free enough to enjoy reading. They are also receptive and curious and if they choose good books, their fertile minds will soon become a ‘Greenland’ of wonderful ideas, imaginations and thoughts that will change the world.

A planned attention on reading means doing ACTIVE READING. When you read actively, you follow these FOUR STEPS:

  1. You observe the style of that particular writer and if you come across some beautiful, appealing expressions you pen them down in a notebook. Later, you write several sentences of your own on the same patterns. For example, take this oft-quoted line of Jeanne Manon Philipon (better known as Madame Roland): “O Liberty! What crimes are committed in thy name!” See, how “Liberty” has been personified and has been associated with an irony (crime committed in her name). Or observe this piece of a poem of Surdas, a Hindi poet: “O Krishna, Why you go to play so far? Today, I heard, a bugaboo has come in the jungle, you don’t know, My Child!” (Khelat door jaat kit kanha … aaj sunyo ban haoo ayo tu nahi janat nanha).  See, how Krishna’s mother alarms him to keep away from going far! Observe the simplicity and beauty of motherly love! According to your aptitude, many such expressions can be striking to you.
  2. You also develop a special aptitude for a particular writer and read lots of books of that very writer. In this way, that writer becomes your ‘Role Model in Writing’, so to say, and even without knowing you start reflecting his or her style, thoughts and modes of expression. In the beginning, it seems like imitation, but gradually your own individuality crystallizes. Eventually, your own ‘class’ is created, your personal thoughts are solidified and your own unique character as a writer begins to take shape. It will be worthwhile to note here, that this Role Model approach is almost essential and natural for everyone who has become a man of essence in any field. Name any great politician you know, he had a Guru whom he followed. Name any great actor or actress, he or she stepped in the shoes of an actor gone before. Name any striking sports star, you can find his source of inspiration in a player of the past. Every great writer bloomed following another great writer. This is a process and not an imitation. It becomes imitation only when the person does not learn anything, does not let his own personality grow, and, naturally, in that case, he never becomes anything great.
  3. You dare beyond your selected reading and once or twice try to read something that you usually did not care for. It means trying a new subject you are not very interested in but which is not for you distasteful, too. For example, may be you always like to read fiction. You also have a favorite writer in this area whom you appreciate and who has become your ‘Role Model in Writing’. However, in this third step of Active Reading you choose, once or twice a month, to read a different thing, say, a non-fiction book or a motivational book of some kind. You usually don’t like reading non-fiction but they are not at all a taboo for you. When we dare to read beyond our ‘favorite’ area, we expand our mind and its attitudinal dimensions. We learn new vocabularies and terminologies, new ways of expressions.
  4. When the third stage is passed, Active Reading takes you to a more difficult but versatile level of reading. Even though no writer can be a ‘Jack of all trades’ and, it is true, that every writer specializes in his or her own area, there is no harm in expanding our horizon of knowledge and see if new thoughts, new jargons, new phrases and slang enrich our writing style. To this effect, sometimes - if not often - every person yearning to be an empowered writer must tread beyond his ‘comfort zone’ and try to read something ‘contrary to his taste’. For example, may be you have no interest at all in a science fiction or a sport-related article. To become versatile, one must digest diversities. For this reason, you may do a favor to yourself and dedicate at least a day in a month to read a book ‘contrary to your taste’. In this way, you will master even more insipid words, learn even more diverse syntaxes and, above all, you will be able to expand your mind to incorporate thoughts and information from additional areas of life.     

The keynote to remember is that diversity in reading brings diversity in writing. In brief, Active Reading involves two types of Reading – Choice Reading and Forced Reading. Choice Reading helps to develop your inherent qualities, and Forced Reading expands your mind to be able to respond to writing needs often demanded by an occasion, such as examinations, news reporting, etc. Students appearing for the regular school examinations or selected exams like IELTS, TOEFL, etc. do not always have to write on the subjects of their choice. They have to be able to express their ideas on diverse topics, not necessarily evoking their interest. It is through FORCED READING that one can develop such a ready penmanship often demanded by these crucial exams.

Reading evokes imagination…

Another important benefit of Reading is that it evokes our imagination. Each writer is a creator. He or she ushers us into a new world hitherto unknown. For example, in her famous Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling takes you to a magical world which was unimaginable to you before. Alice in Wonderland, Gulliver’s Travels, The Panchatantra – all reveal to us a unique world characterized by their own respective phenomenal auras and ambiences. When you read, you imagine and imagination is the best friend of the writers.

Furthermore, as we keep on reading, we come across myriads of personalities and, in a way, interact with them. Great characters like Hamlet, Devdas, Sindabad, Arjuna, Hanuman, Shantanu, Izmeralda, Lucy, Ali Baba, Hatim Tai, Hercules, Max Demian and so many others have not just meant to us an imaginary character of a poetry, drama or fiction but they occupy a corner in our heart. We think of them, sympathize with them, make them our heroes or heroines, we see our own image in their eminent personalities. In this way, we ‘co-relate’ with the emotions and feelings of others, and this susceptibility is a vital property for all writers.

Shun television and movies; don’t kill your imagination…

Long before the age of television and cinema, people were just fond of reading.  They were in the trains, in trams or buses, in their bed-room or study room, holding a book in their hands, reading and imagining the characters that were described. If it was a story of Krishna, the reader had his own unique image of Krishna. If it was the brave Sindbad the sailor, they were well imagining his adventuresome spirit, his traits and qualities along the pages they were turning curiously. A serious and complex character like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, for grown-up readers, was visualized in their own mind’s aptitudes and dimensions, colored according to each reader’s personal tastes and tints.  Sharat Chandra’s tragic-romantic character, Devdas, used to be a unique personality for the keen readers.

Then everything changed. A director appeared and ‘moulded’ Krishna and His greatness in an imitative and often ridiculous role of a mortal hero who could be anyone ranging from Dhriti Bhatia to Meghan Jadhav or from Swapnil Joshi to Sarvadaman Banerjee.  Now, especially for Children, Krishna can never re-appear in His original greatness as visualized in their unprejudiced minds. Whenever they will close their eyes to see that divine beauty, a Nitish Bhardwaj will smile.  And, may be, in one of these ‘glimpses’, Lord Krishna will also be contesting an election! And, a bunch of other film-makers sprang up to show the dualism and hesitation, skepticism and inner conflict, shock and trauma of Hamlet in over dozens of versions though none of them – including Laurence Olivier, Edwin Booth or Morris Hunt -- could be as perfect as a reader’s own view in his mind of the poor Hamlet.  In the like manner, the Devdas that we see in the Indian cinema deprives us from individually imagining and understanding the real pains and tragedies that a character of Sharat Chandra could have suffered.  From Phani Sharma to K.L. Saigal and from Dilip Kumar to Shahrukh Khan and Zara Shaikh, no one can match the exactness of Devdas that he really was or could be for each individual reader. Sindbad’s real personality was replaced by a Douglas Fairbanks or another like him and the same happened with many immortal characters that could mean something else for us but were ‘imposed’ on our minds as a different, limited, stunted personalities ‘carved out’ by a cinema or television tycoon.

This is not to say that television and cinema should be banned or that they are useless. It is also agreeable that in many cases the film versions of a story have proved to be more influential than the real story itself. The purpose is only to outline that when we read, our imagination is set free and it colors the characters and places, events and emotions according to our own inner conceptions.  At the same time, another reader has a different conception.  Our imaginative skills are developed. Our mind uses its own canvas, its own palettes and hues, its own brushes and blends.  However, when we watch a television show or a movie, our freedom of creativity is taken away under a clever plot. Our canvas and palettes are snatched away. We are given colored specks to wear and see the characters as the directors would like us to see. If you will consider this condition with regard to children, who are easily influenced by the way things are presented to them, you will appreciate what type of a serious ‘mental killing’ is this! A new word should be discovered – IMAGINICIDE – as these mediums of entertainment are truly killing the imaginations a child could have. 

Ample focus on reading is the only remedy to prevent this Imaginicide.

The benefits of Reading are manifold. It is sufficient to say that Reading is a two-dimensional journey at the same time – a journey in the outer world, the world of knowledge and information and also a journey inside your own self, exploring your own likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. In this way, you become a “full man”. Isn’t it exciting?          



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