Why Criticism Is Important For Writers – and How to Handle It!

This week, I decided to take a break from my reviews and share with you something I found very, very useful in my journey as a writer.

Handling criticism has never been my strongest suit. On the contrary, I am the kind of person who would stop writing for weeks if I would get one negative comment on my story.

I started writing and posting online when I was fourteen. And it was not until very recently that I realized the importance of criticism and how important it is to a writer – only when handled carefully.

This post will mainly be about on how to handle criticism in reference to online writing or even blogging.

Also, most of the inspiration for this article came from College Info Geek podcast which speaks more on how to handle criticism in general. I found the podcast very helpful, while it spoke a lot about on how to handle criticism about writing, it was not very specific and thus I decided to just apply the podcast to writing for my fellow writers. You can find the podcast here.

Advantages of Criticism to A Writer

1. The Shortcut to Learn New Things

If we didn’t have criticism in our life, we will have to take the long way to learn anything.

The podcast started with this line and this, basically, sums up why we need criticism in our life. It is the shortcut to new knowledge. 

No matter what an avid reader you are, you cannot possibly traverse all genres and technicalities of writing within a limited span of time. Learning can occur from experience – so, you publish ten books and your eleventh book based on those experiences is your breakthrough. And I don’t know about you, it takes me at least two years to complete a novel. I guess it will be easier for authors – who just write. But then again, in the present publishing scenario, there are many things an author is supposed to do especially for marketing.

In a nutshell, taking the advice of someone who is offering it – is like learning from their experience. It may seem like a hard slap if the criticism is too scathing, but trust me, it will save you a couple of years or more.

2. Evolution as a Writer

If you have been writing for a while, I beg you to stop for a moment and look back at the thing you wrote for the first time. You know, the piece you were so proud of that you read it to many people or even posted it online and now compare it to what you have been writing now.

That is my point.

If you do not get criticism, you will become stagnant and perhaps, end up writing the same thing again and again.

3. Improve Writing Skills

I can vouch through my seven years of writing online that the thing I wrote in 2012, I would not bother reading today. Why? Obscure sentences, bad grammar, no expression and multiple uses of ‘said’ – I remember when a reviewer back in my fanfiction days told me

“Said is boring – we all know that your characters are either speaking or thinking but tell me how they are speaking it, what’s their tone, why they are saying it that way. Are they making animated hand gestures? Or are they calm and stoic? Do they speak softly? Or ina high-ptiched tone? Or are they hoarse from the mile they ran? Don’t just tell me what they said tell me how they said it, why they said it.”

What an advice! Something that stuck with me to this day. And added dimensions to my narration. So, when you are getting a feedback or criticism and you reflect on it – you’ll improve.


How to Handle Criticism?

  • Don’t be the Dragon:

    I think that once we begin to write a lot, and start to gain some semblance of readership and accolades for our writing, we become a bit like a dragon hoarding the treasure. It’s your masterpiece, and you love it. So, you become defensive. And that’s the problem. The key here is, you are not the dragonYou are the creator of the treasure. So, even though, a knight might come along and not find your treasure worth stealing. It’s okay – you can improve it.

  • Be the Humble Worker:

    When you get criticism from someone, you tend to ask “So, how many books have you published?” Don’t. It’s not about that. It is actually about having a mindset that anyone can teach you something important. I don’t intend to go all philosophical over here. But it is the truth. Even a reader who has no clue about writing technicalities reminds you of things like foreshadowing, obscure sentences and completely unrequired scenes in your story. So, don’t go all, “What have you achieved?” But instead, “What can I take from this one?”

  • Leave the Criticism When You’re Emotional

    Alright. Your emotions are running high and you think that this review is just something that is going to push you towards frying your hard drive and burning your manuscript. Ignore the criticism. Keep it aside. Let it marinate for a while. Then, a week or two later, open up that criticism again. And actually, reflect on it. We are not emotional fools, but we tend to do foolish things when emotional. Take a very logical and objective look at the feedback or criticism.

  • The Criticism is not a Criticism of You but Your Work

    So, please, don’t take it personally. It’s not about you or where you come from but about what your writing is conveying. Sometimes, what you are trying to convey is not what you’re actually conveying. Don’t take any criticism as a personal attack – and about being defensive, we have already established – Don’t be the dragon.

  • Balance Between Your Writing and Criticism

    This is a vast topic in itself, but I will be very brief over here. You have your goals and vision of your story in your mind. Now, the key is reflecting on your criticism but not becoming a slave of every review you get. Because, you cannot please everyone. Take every type of criticism you get and evaluate on how it is helping you in your final goal.

Some Mental Hacks

  • When you receive a criticism and it hurts, go back to your own old work and gain a perspective
  • Every year or so, check whether you have improved from the previous year or not.
  • Not all criticism is valid – empathise with the ones who send in hate messages – they must be having a very bad day. Move on.
  • Determine your goals, and weigh in every criticism you get with the idea, “Does this lead me to where I want to go?”

 

And that’s it for today. Do tell me what you think in the comments below. Feedback – as this post has already assured – is always appreciated.

Have a good day!

 

P.S.: Follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. And if you want to check out what I mean by despicable writing to readable writing go on my Wattpad Profile.

 

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Book Review: A Quest for Spring by Monica Mujumdar Dixit

A Quest for Spring

If you have ever stood in a queue for your college admission process, you know why I despise it. Since my first year, I had decided that I would read a book while waiting in any queues. This (possibly my last) year’s pick was – A Quest for Spring by Monica Mujumdar Dixit. 

Premise:

The tale starts a lot like your typical forbidden love – to top it we have the Hindi Muslim clash. And as if that was not enough, our heroine is the daughter of an Army Colonel and the hero is the grandson and successor of the Valley royals.

Now, the thing that echoed in my mind throughout the book is that it has been years and years, still, there is a struggle for the Valley. It might be dubbed the paradise on earth, but humans have still tainted it. 

So, the story revolves around these two and in a typical Indian fashion, there are duties every Indian child is bound to perform. They struggle through their duties, ambitions, the expectations people have of them and the constant conspiracies that surround them because of being related to some very important people of different factions.

Characters:

I think my emotions towards the characters changed throughout the book. I was not in love with the characters, or maybe, we had a love-hate relationship.

I think I could make a book rant about this – something that I only feel when the book has very strong characters. Meanwhile, as I refrain from giving the spoilers, I think if nothing, you would definitely enjoy the development of the characters.

Writing:

I did feel the book was very long. While reading, I felt like some of the parts could have been just done with a mention and instead other aspects like the actual Kashmir-Army conspiracy, the development of characters after their separation, and even the character arcs of the supporting characters could have been developed.

Thoughts While Reading: (Some Spoilers)

Part I:

First all this part is set in the 90s, I think I was three year old during the time the Part I takes place. I had to google many of the references in the book. But I definitely had the opportunity to transport into my parents’ youth and understand their references.

Secondly, I was strongly rooting against the main characters in this part of the story. Simply because, I thought that the initial attraction was because of the allure of forbidden.

Some parts seemed to be just there without giving into the plot. But they were cute scenes, so, I’d let it be.

Part II:

I was still reeling from the shock of the separation (even though prologue hints it). I think I truly began to love the character of Amolika Nath in this Part. She is strong, independent and while, the fellow characters often call her selfish – she will do anything for the people she loves. Unfortunately, my ship of Vikram and Amolika does not sail very far.

I think I will not understand the depths of first love, but I guess, I have to give it to Amolika for trying to move on (albeit half-heartedly).

P.S.: The dutiful hero marries the girl of grandfather’s choice, breaking my heart in the process.

Part III:

I was actually hurrying to this part because I knew that Amolika and Raehan meet again here. I think it is very different from meeting a person at the age of 17 and then again in your late 30s.

This is a very crucial part of the story as all the conspiracies begin to unfold and we actually get to witness the development of characters over the years and yet, how the two of them are still the same at heart.

Part IV

For the hopeless romantic within me, this was my favourite part of the story for many reasons.

First of all, it had the healing – literal in case of Raehan and his depression – and emotional healing for both our lovely characters.

Second of all, this time around I actually felt the more mature and lasting love between them rather than the allure of forbidden – which I am not a big fan of.

Thirdly, I just love when authors tie up loose ends and give the characters a chance to be happy after struggles – and actually write it down instead of giving me an open-ended ending.

Final Rating:

3.5/5

Link:

As a reader kindly reminded me that I actually didn’t link the book for the last review. So here’s the link.

Previous Review:

Find my review for I Shall Always Love You – An Indian Fantasy here.

 

 

I Shall Always Love You – Book Review

I intended to make the best of the last few days of my holidays before I go back to, read, dive into, the last semester of my Master’s.

After attempting to rewrite the first draft of my first novel, I decided to take the last week off and read some light hearted romance and I chose:

Here’s my review:

The Beginning:

To be perfectly honest, the beginning didn’t take me hook, line and sinker.

The first few paragraphs of the story seem to drag with philosophical and rhetorical question which made me desperate for the start of the story.

Initially, the characters Shiv, Arjun and Saloni seemed like a typical love triangle which I wasn’t really looking forward to.

But I persisted because, hey, I already had the kindle book. So, why not? And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Plot

The reincarnation concept is not a new one in Indian literature. Yet, I loved it just the same. The two dimensions are very well written. And once you get past the first part the second part will have you hooked. The mystery of treasure and kidnapping in the latter part is very intriguing.

The Characters

The characters in the previous incarnation had much depth. However, in the present incarnation the characters fall flat and seem like the well endowed upper class urban youth. Their recollection of the past is the only thing of intrigue. However, once the past lives are explained, they do start to make sense.

The Writing

I thought that in some parts, the voice would change from past to present. But the story had a good continuity. And as previous mentioned, the plot was engaging.

The history and the art aspect of the story is described beautifully without making it seem like an art lesson.

Final Word

I would definitely recommend this book to a romance lover, who wants a plot in the story. This was definitely my cup of tea. And the author does a great work with the story.

Spell My Name Right: The Irony of A Happy Muharram: A Review

muharram

Syed Amjad Ali tastefully remarks on the irony of the average Indian Muslim. And I am all for it.

As an Indian Muslim, growing up in a non-Muslim majority you know you are different. It is not a bad thing, per se, to be different. But it continues to be ever so amusing in my life. And perhaps, if the author is to be trusted, in every Muslim’s life.

Now, even though stereotypes might claim that the only thing Indian Muslims think about is biryanibombs and four wives. We are not that different. And Indian.

I think this book will go in my list of must read simply because it is highly educative about the life of Indian Muslims. And maybe, wipe off many of the stereotypes, which are usually, unintentional, more or less well-meaning can get a bit tiring.

It has been centuries since Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and other religions have co-existed amongst each other in India. I think it is not too much to ask that we learn about each other, and even, what irks the other, it will add to the peaceful co-existence.

I don’t think any average Indian wants to fight or war anything, religion included.

The USP of this book is that it educates in a humorous way, without going into heavy details of the faith. It is simply saying, that’s how I live, that’s how you do. And we can co-exist… If you spell my name right. 

Kudos to the author who writes about his own experiences and lays out some hardcore truths in a humorous way – which perhaps, opens up conversation towards understanding each other.

Surah Al-Kahf Series: Introduction

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيمDay 1

bismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm

“In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.”

Assalamualaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu, 

I am starting this series for the sole purpose of reminding others about the importance of Surah Al-Kahf. I had heard many times, and known that one should recite Surah Al-Kahf on a Friday. But I really did not understand the virtues of the surah, or the simple meaning of the surah. During my studies at Islamic Online University, I came across Tafseer of Surah Al-Kahf and wanted to share lessons I have learned. I will be referring to Tafseer Ibn Katheer and the Tafseer provided by Dr. Bilal Philips. Basically, summarizing their Tafseer for the benefit of a reminder. 

If you find any errors or have any feedback please email me at iipsychologistii@gmail.com. 

 

 

Name of the Surah: 

Most commonly known as Surah Al-Kahf (The Cave), derived from verse 9 of the surah:

أَمْ حَسِبْتَ أَنَّ أَصْحَابَ الْكَهْفِ وَالرَّقِيمِ كَانُوا مِنْ آيَاتِنَا عَجَبًا – 18:9

Or have you thought that the companions of the cave and the inscription were, among Our signs, a wonder?

 

One must also remember that not all titles of the Surahs were provided by the Prophet. Some were given by the Sahabah for the convenience of denoting the Surah. At the same time, number of verses were not given by the Prophet either. In general, the basmallah was used to denote the beginning and end of a Surah.

Dr. Bilal Philips says in his book:

It was not until the third century after the hijrah (ninth century C.E.) that people began the practice of writing chapter names in the Qur’aan, numbering the verses and adding symbols in the margin indicating the divisions of the Qur’aan.1 There were also symbols indicating the ends of the verses and places for recitational pauses (such as ط and لا ). Most scholars of that time were opposed to these additions fearing that their widespread acceptance might lead to these symbols being considered a part of the Qur’aan in later times.

Place of Revelation: 

Most of the Tafseers and scholars have concluded that the Surah is Makkan. It is important to add here that Makkan and Madinan do not indicate place or location but the time period when the Surah was revealed. There is a clear difference because the matter addressed differs and the ones being addressed were different. The Makkan Surahs were before Hijrah – that is a time when Islam was new and there were not many Muslims dealing with faith. However, Madinan Surahs are about rules, regulations and legislation of Islam as an Islamic community had established in Madinah.

Some scholars have mentioned, when discussing the difference between Makkan and Madinan soorahs, that the words “O mankind” appear in the Makkan soorahs and “O you who believe” appear in the Madinan soorahs. This is what is usually the case. In Madinan soorahs such as al-Baqarah and al-Nisa’, it says “O mankind” and in some of the Makkan soorahs such as al-Hajj, it says “O you who believe.”

Merits of the Surah:

  • The Descent of Tranquillity: day 1 reminder4
    • When the Qur’an is recited tranquillity or peacefulness descends on the reciter.
    • Al-Baraa was quoted as saying that a man recited al-Kahf when an animal was in his house and it became agitated. When he looked around, he found a cloud hovering over him. When he informed Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), he said, القْحرَأْافُلانُافَ إنح بََّْال سَّْ يَنَةُانحزَََْتْا لْقُرْآ ناأَوْاتَحنَحزََّْتْا لْقُرْآ نا   “O so and so, continue to recite, for it was tranquility(sakeenah) which descends when the Qur’aan is read or because the Qur’aan is read.”

    • One must make a point that what is recited should be understood and applied in our life.
  • Protection from Dajjal:
  • day 1 reminder3
    • Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) warned his followers about the Anti-Christ who would come at the end of this world. He informed them that it would be the greatest trial that his nation would face. He further advised that the memorization and recitation of the first and the last ten verses of Soorah al-Kahf would protect the reciter from the Anti-Christ. Abud-Dardaa related that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,

      مَنْاحَ فظَاعَشْرَاآيَبتٍا منْاأَوَّ لاسُورَة ال اعُ صمَا منْال دَّْجَّب لا“Anyone who memorizes the first ten verses of Soorah al-Kahf will be protected from Dajjaal.” (Source:Sahih Mulsim)

      On another occasion, Abud-Dardaa quoted the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as saying,

      امَنْاقَحرَأَاعَشْرَاآيَبتٍا منْاآ خ رال اعُ صمَا منْاف تْحنَ ةال دَّْجَّب لاا.“Anyone who recites the last ten verses of al-Kahf will be protected from trials of the Dajjal.” (Source: Sahih Muslim)

  • Source of Light (Noor):
  • Day 1 reminder2
    • On another occasion, Abud-Dardaa quoted the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as saying:

      . امَنْاقَحرَأَاسُورَةَال افيايحوَْ ماللُْْمُعَ ة،اأَضَبءَا هَُْا منْال نُّْو رامبابحيَْحنَهُاوَبحيََْْاجُُُعَتَح يْا“Whoever recites Soorah al-Kahf on Friday will be illuminated by its light from one Friday to the next.” (Source:Mustadrak al-Hakim)

    • On yet another occasion Abud-Dardaa quoted the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as saying,

      امَنْاقَحرَأَاسُورَةَال ااكَمَباأُنْ زَْتْاكَبنَتْا هَُْانُورًلايحوَْمَال قيَبمَ ةاا“Whoever recites Soorah al-Kahf as it was revealed will have it as light for himself on the Day of Resurrection.” (Source: Mustadrak al-Hakim)

  • Source of Forgiveness:
  • Day 1 reminder
    • Ibn ‘Umar is reported to have quoted Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) as saying, “Whoever recites Soorah al-Kahf on Friday, light will shine from beneath his feet to the heavens, it will be a light for him on the Day of Judgement, and he would be forgiven for his sins between the two Fridays.” (Classified as Saheeh in Sunan at-Tirmithi)

 

 

That’s it for today. Inn sha Allah, will be posting the Tafseer for first verse next week.

JazakAllahu Khairan.

Book Review: Reminiscences of A Seeker

Summary:

A series of events catapults Kapil into the fascinating world of Dark Arts and suck him into the quagmire of drama, suspense, greed and betrayal. And jusr when the trials and tribulations seem to engulf Kapil completely there emerged from the deepest darkness, a Brilliant Light of his True Master. Reminiscences of A Seeker tells the true story of an ordinary man plunged into extraordinary circumstances of the Dark World. Kapil takes you on his unforgettable true journey of the supernatural world of mystics and higher beings, unbelievable miracles and the parallel world of darkness and light, in his spiritual pursuit of seeking the ONE – who would show him the Ultimate Divine.

My Take:

Abraham Maslow believes that self actualization is the ultimate goal of a person. A person undergoes an ultimate desire for spiritual enlightenment once in their life. Reminiscences of A Seeker is a book that highlights this journey in the most honest way possible – without sugarcoating it.

Kapil’s journey is gripping and a compelling read. It tells you about how things are.

The hopelessness, the struggle, the depression to the lowest point possible, betrayal, envy, and the fight from one’s own self and desires… and in the end, the elation of Ultimate Guidance.

Pros:

Well-written: Usually, non-fiction lacks the appeal of being an engaging read. Such is not the case with this book.

Honest: As stated previously, this book is not sugarcoated – and that is one of it’s appeals.

A good perspective for people looking for spiritual guidance.

Cons:

At the first glance, it seems scattered as it is written in a memoir form.

It’s a bit long to be a quick read. You’ll also need to invest your mind as some incidents seem to haunt you.

Content Warning:

None.

Overall Rating:

4/5

One Line:

In a world where religion has become a business, books like these remind us the necessity of spirituality and Divine Guidance.

Excerpt:

No one can cheat me… I went ahead and taught him a lesson.

He lost his mind and started behaving like a madman. One day, on a busy road, he started removing his clothes. The police had arrived, and thinking he was mentally unsound, took him to the mental asylum. After a few days, his wife and elder son came to me and begged for mercy. They then gave me double the amount to spare his life.

There was an uncanny silence in the room after Asurnath narrated the incident. Though he showed as if he was addressing his disciples, I knew it was strongly directed towards me; he was warning me. All throughout there was a hint of irritation in his voice. I could sense there was something in my dream which had threatened him and he was telling me what he could do when angry.

His message was loud and clear… no one could cross his path unscathed.

 

 

 

Book Review: Once Upon A Genie

I am not good at formal reviews. I will go into informal aspects of a book review, aka, personal reflection or rather, my fangirling. Well, as much fangirling as I can without giving up the plot of the book.

Name: Once Upon a Genie

Author: Durriya Kapasi

Publication: Half Baked Beans

Genre: Fantasy/Romance

First Glance:

I love reading. If there had been any doubts about the fact. The first book I ever read was a fantasy. And my favourite book is a fantasy. So, while I try to not hold favourites while coming to genres, Fantasy is close to my heart. Simply put, I was very to read this book.

Did it live up to the expectations? Yes, it did.

If you didn’t get it by now, the book is about Genies. A new perspective to the world of Genies or Jinns or Djinns – however you spell them.

(Quirk: The subtle references to Aladdin’s Genie give you tickles. At least, if you’ve grown up watching the show or reading Arabian Nights)

I loved the cover and the blurb. Gives the glimpse of the plot, a plot-twist but not spoilers beyond that.

In-Depth Plot: I like the premise of the novel. The Genie land and the blend with the human world plays and important role in the development of the plot. It is moderate paced. Doesn’t make you feel like, “Wait – what but now it was there?” Neither it makes you feel irritated by the slow pace. I liked it. I would have liked more depth in the genie land, but I guess, that the plot doesn’t really demand it. Also, I think the sequel will answer to my wishes — notice, what I did there? Wishes… Genie pun… No? Okay.

Yes, a sequel. The end of the book completely clarifies that there are many loose ends to be tied, especially, the one plot twist of the story I didn’t even expect. So, there is going to be a sequel. I sure do hope so it is soon.

Characters: I am more of a character person. I think an average plot does wonders when characters are good and in this department, I was not at all disappointed. Daisy is curious and lovable. She has her quirks and I like her. As she is the voice of the novel, I could easily become her while exploring this supernatural world with a hot hunk of a genie.

Darren is that best friend who will be there for you. Always. (Snape and Peeta reference) I fell in love with him over the course of the book. I know, the popular choice would be Khalil, and I completely understand as Khalil has that rogue charm and that cocky confident attitude that is appealing along with the mystery of being paranormal. But I love Darren.

Besides that, I love the way all three characters mentioned in the blurb evolve into a better version of themselves within the journey of 21 chapters.

Would I recommend this book?

Yes.

Emotions as soon as I kept down the book?

Sweet melancholy.

How long did you take to finish the book?

If I did not have to act like a responsible adult, one day. But as I had exams and assignments due. Three days. The book compels you to read it. Trust me. Or trust Khalil. Seriously.

Link to the book: http://amzn.to/2m6MQEx