a memoir by Chitra Ramaswami
When Chitra discovered a stray cat in need of help, she never thought they’d wind up saving each other. Struggling to come to terms with an unexpected diagnosis, Chitra returned home to Oman seeking a sense of familiarity. What she discovered instead was a very special cat who changed her life. But First, Rumi is the story of how, day by day, Rumi and Chitra got to know one another, and as she learned to love the little stray, she began to see greater life lessons about herself, her family, her home country and her place in the world. What unfolds when girl and cat meet? What happens when you follow your heart? What if the world is not as it seems? Is it worth taking a chance?
My Writing Process
So, what went behind writing my memoir, a multi-category Kindle bestseller and store sell-out? Let me try and break down my process for you:
- Should I be publishing this book at all?
For someone like me who happily wrote for herself years before she published her first memoir, this question hits home. With story ideas every day and writing poetry, I was not in the habit of writing with an intention to publish. At least so far, it wasn’t the case. How did I decide to publish my first book? I asked myself if I had something to tell my readers or bring their attention to? I felt an urge to share a part of my life with the world. And I simply honored that feeling and did the best I could.
- Know your audience
What age group are you writing for? Do your readers belong to a niche audience? Who is your target reader? Tell the story you wish to tell. But you’ll be a better storyteller if you know who’s listening or in this case reading. Do your research.
- Writing structure
I place great emphasis on flow and begin by listing out chapters from the beginning to the end. I have a ballpark figure for how long each chapter would be (number of words) and how many chapters I’d like to tell the story in. Then I proceed to write out the chapters which are usually an amalgamation of notetaking I do in the days prior as well as impromptu thoughts as I begin to write. I also have clarity on what I would like the reader to feel at the end of each chapter and decide how to lead them up to it. As for book or chapter titles, working titles are a friend till I arrive at my perfect pick.
- Writers’ block
There are only two ways out of this predicament for me. Either I take a break, or I write the bad lines out of my system. I’m especially gentle with myself during these times and lead myself mentally to a place of no judgment, almost like I’m writing for myself.
- Read and Re-read
I read my material as many times as possible. I even read it after a gap of time. This is especially scary as I wonder how I would like what I wrote a month back. I take care of spelling and grammatical errors at this stage and rewrite bits as needed.
- The Editor Investment
Investing in a good developmental editor has borne me good results. Be picky with the editor you choose. Working with an editor who understands your voice and who lends his/ her unbiased thoughts will be priceless in your writing process and worth every penny. A final copy edit is important for a polished finish.
- Final tips
If you already have a reading routine, continue reading during your writing days. You can never read enough. Take it from me. And be flexible. Change your process if you need to. Come up with your own. Do what you need to. You got this!
Chitra Ramaswami was born and raised in the Middle East by Indian parents, and her childhood was spent reading every book she could lay her hands on or writing stories and lines of poetry. As a result of traveling the world extensively and being a natural linguist, she is an amalgamation of many cultures and tastes and is constantly looking for the next experience she can immerse herself in. When she isn’t writing, Chitra rides horses, climbs mountains and is a passionate advocate for the Omani Mau/ street cat. She currently lives in New York with her husband and a very spoiled cat and hamster duo.
Find her online at: Author’s website: https://cramaswami.com/