Interviews

“I just wish to study at different universities around the world until I hit forty or fifty. A guy can dream, can’t he?” – Naveed Sheharyar Khan

Naveed Sheharyar Khan, winner of Daastan’s 3rd Season of “The Stories Untold” talks to MOIWrites in this exclusive interview.

1. Tell us about yourself?

I am studying Accounting and Finance at a leading business school of Karachi. However, unlike a majority of peers, I enjoy reading, writing and poetry more than the matters of compound interest and time value of money. They say that we all have a purpose to fulfill in this world. If that is the truth, then my life purpose has to do something with writing!

2. Since when are you writing?

I started writing almost three years ago when a friend of mine, literally, coerced me to write my first article. The article was not as good, obviously, but I craved more of the euphoria that followed.

3. How was it to be the winner of the Stories Untold Season 3 by Daastan?

It was surprising, to be honest. Several of the contestants were much more accomplished writers than I could ever hope to be, which is why I did not have much expectation to win it. I am proud of what I have achieved.

4. What was the name of your winning story and what was it about? 

The title of my short story was “True Justice”. The plot involved a young Threader, who was seeking justice (read: revenge) for the extinction of his race. The story is centered on the difference between justice and revenge, and how love makes its way into the equation.

5. Do you plan before you write or do you write by following the concept of “going with the flow”?

Stephen King has always been an advocate of going with flow. Considering the things that he has accomplished, it is only natural for lowly mortals like me to follow his advice, no?

6. Do you think writing is a skill that one learns or is an in born talent? 

I honestly do not know. All I know is that I had to spend long nights learning the rules of grammar before I could ever hope to improve even an aspect of my works. Talent might have a role, but I do not think we can get anywhere without a good work ethic, sleepless nights and disrupted daily routines.

7. If you were to give aspiring writers five writing tips, what will they be?

Honestly, I am an aspiring write myself, and I do not see myself fitting to instruct others in the art I know very little of. However, if there is one thing that I have learned, it is that you need to let your imagination run wild.

8. Who are the authors from Pakistan and from abroad are among your favorite? 

Saadat Hassan Manto, definitely! He might have written in Urdu, but there is no writer who has had a deeper impact on me than Manto. Other than that, I love how Elif Shafak sees the world and writes about it. And who could forget J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye”?

9. What are your plans?

I hope I knew, honestly. For now, I just wish to study at different universities around the world until I hit forty or fifty. A guy can dream, can’t he?

10. Your message for the youth of Pakistan?

I mean, a twenty-one-year-old advising the youth of a country would seem pretty bizarre, right? However, if you were to ask me one thing that I have learned from my twenty-one-years on Mother Earth, I would say that it could be: “Only a handful of people are going to, truly, believe in us in our entire lifetimes. We need to hold them close; but most importantly, we need to believe in ourselves, regardless of everything. No one will do it for us!”

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Interviews

“Keeping my feet on the ground, I want to conquer the skies!” Sibte Ali, world’s youngest mystery author

“A mystery novel becomes an interesting read when it provides the readers with an intellectual challenge,” says 15-years-old Sibte Ali, world’s youngest mystery author in this exclusive interview with MOIWrites

1. When did you start writing?

I started writing when I was 11. At first, I used to do creative writing as my homework, but soon I gained an interest in it and started writing regularly.

2. Novels of which genre do appeal you the most?

I like Mystery/ thriller novels, especially of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I also read books by Jules Verne, known as the Father of Science Fiction. His books “The Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “Around the world in 80 days” are a must-read.

3. Tell us about your book, “The Next Generation of Bakers Street?”

It is a Mystery/ Thriller based on the grandchildren of the great detective Sherlock Holmes. Walking in the footsteps of their grandfather they become a team and fight against the evil powers lurking upon London.

4. How does it feel to be the youngest mystery author of the world?

It feels good to be the youngest mystery author of the world. I have dedicated my novel to my parents and friend, Hamza Waqas. It feels that at least, I have done something in this world that I will be remembered after my death.

5. What factors do you think makes a mystery novel an interesting read?

A mystery novel becomes an interesting read when it provides the readers with an intellectual challenge. A mystery novel often presents a problem (usually crime related) at the beginning and then gives clues to the reader so that they can hypothesize about the resolution. If it is in form of parts it should end on a cliff-hanger.

6. Which Pakistani authors (English and Urdu) you love to read or would recommend other to read?

I would love to recommend everyone to read a poet yet unpublished but her works are present on Wattpad entitled “Shinning Darkly” by Momina Mable. She is one fine poet. There is also another writer, she writes spiritual romance stories, Maryam, you can read her works also.

7. Your message to aspiring writers?

I would like to quote: “The secret of becoming a writer is to write, write and keep on writing.” – Ken MacLeod. The biggest secret behind all the writer’s success stories is writing. Never stop, keep writing. This is the best way to improve your skills. So, make and follow a habit of writing as much as you can.

 

 

Interviews

“Ignite the passion to educate the masses in your hearts”: Mahnoor Naseer – Editor-in-Chief, Daastan.

Mahnoor Naseer is a Citizen Historian at The 1947 Partition Archive. An electrical engineer by academic qualification but with literature filled in her heart, she talks to MOIWrites in this exclusive interview about her life and career, passion and plans.

1. Tell us about yourself?

So, as you know already, my name is Mahnoor, it is from a Persian-Arabic origin which means Moonlight. As beautiful as it sounds to many, my name is not unique at all, but I personally believe that it is not the name that makes a person unique but the characteristics they possess. Therefore, I find myself inimitable in my compassion of doing every single thing in life as if it matters the most.

I come from a middle-class family and was brought up in the shelter of unconditional love of my hardworking parents, for whom self-respect was more important than money. My parents are a real-life example of the ideology that what you cannot achieve for yourself, provide it to others. They have given me more than anything that I ever asked for. All that they lacked in their lives, they have given it to me.

Professionally, I am an Electrical Engineer and serving as a research intern in Military College of Signals, Rawalpindi. Besides that, I am also the Editor-in-Chief, Daastan and a Citizen Historian with “The 1947 Partition Archive”. I very recently started working on a collaborated project of UNDP and SIL as a research writer and transcriptionist.

Apart from these boring details that build me up, I am an avid reader and an aspiring writer. At times, I even play with colors and try my hand at painting. I enjoy sketching. I also collect stamps, coins, and naturally, bookmarks. I would also define myself as a foodie who loves testing out new cuisines. So far, nothing has won me over like Chinese food.

I am rather a “pick-and-choose” kind of a person when it comes to making acquaintances or befriending people. One of my strongest policies is being straightforward to the point that sometimes, I feel I will end up hurting someone but I try to be as careful as possible.

2. You are the Co-Founder of The Ancient Souls. What are The Ancient Souls about?

In August 2016, along with a group of friends from abroad, I decided to do something different, something that would be outside the limits of the mainstream. To set up the platform that not only promotes written works but literature as a whole.

Presently, many people have restricted the definition of literature to possessing good writing skills and having read the well-known books. The concept we wanted to nurture through our platform was rather broad: “Anything that involves words, art, and the true colors of humanity is to be known as literature” — not talking of the genres or the major forms here but sticking to the basic definition of it.

Therefore, we had three sub-goals; to protect the said definition of literature, to promote peace through literature by dissolving all the human barriers, and to innovate. The three sub-goals combined to serve one major goal that was to create a platform to empower aspiring writers, photographers, and artists across the globe.

Currently, we are operating as a community of around 15,000+ members across the world. We also published our first annual anthology in 2017, which secured the honor to be Daastan’s very first international publication.

3. As the Editor-in-Chief at Daastan, what are your prime responsibilities?

Besides editing, I have to review all submissions in the light of Daastan’s set policies. I have to coordinate with my sub-editors in assigning them tasks, reviewing those tasks once completed, have the final drafts ready and pass them on to our website management team.

Overall, I have to ensure that the team stays as hospitable and encouraging towards the authors as possible; because it is the budding talent that we mostly deal with, and that they do not overstep any of the company’s predefined policies.

4. Which authors from Pakistan and abroad are your favorite?

Talking of the international authors J.K. Rowling will always be at the top of my list for obvious reasons. I really enjoy reading Sylvia Plath, Khaled Hosseini, Stephen King, Elif Shafek, Sydney Sheldon, Sarah J Mass, Sabah Tahir, Nicholas Sparks, and the list goes on.

The Pakistani authors that I really like are Abdullah Hussain, Hashim Nadeem, Omar Shahid Hamid, and Nimrah Ahmed. I know people have different views about Nimrah’s writing style but I love her scenic portrayals and the choice of words. Here, I have mentioned the authors from modern literature only because those from previous generations, as far as I have read them, were all maestros in my view, like Manto, Patras Bukhari, Bano Qudsia, Ashfaq Ahmed and many others, and I am yet to discover that era of literature in a broader way.

5. Which are your favorite novels?

Okay, I will not mention Harry Potter here because that is like blood to my body. I love “The Kite Runner”, not just for the sake of the book, but also because of all the book-based movies that I have watched,” The Kite Runner” seemed to be the best one of them. Even Harry Potter movies did not approach me on that level of perfection.

So, reading a book and loving it, and then watching a movie based on it and loving it the same way, has an impact on the way my imaginations works after I finish reading it. You know, I just wish we opened a book and all characters danced in front of us. It is a childish thought, but I am a firm believer in miracles! My other favorites include; “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath, “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank, “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi, “Rose Madder” by Stephen King, “The Throne of Glass Series” by Sarah J. Mass, “Forty Rules of Love” by Elif Shafek, and “Amar Bail” by Nemrah Ahmed.

6. You have been responsible for editing manuscript entries in Daastan’s Stories Untold competition. How has the experience been for you?

Season 2 of the Stories Untold was the point where I officially stepped into this literary world as an Editor. Roller Coaster is the best word to describe my journey during those days. My main role was that of a project manager. However, later I became an Editor, a job I had never thought of being capable to do. On a minor level, I was already doing it at TAS, but this was different as at Daastan, here I had  to mentor  the aspiring authors.

In my life, my biggest advantage has always been my perseverance. When I decide to do something, I do it. There is no turning back or quitting, I never quit unless something is hurting my self-respect.

So, when Daastan offered me to be an Editor, I said okay, I can try it but expect errors because I am new to this, and the errors did occur, I have learned a lot from them and still am learning. To my surprise, everything worked out well. Three of the four people that I mentored during that season made it to the top six, and the fourth one is an exceptional author, Muhammad Omar Iftikhar, who keeps on exploring various genres, he is also the winner of NaNoWriMo 2017. I am lucky to have been associated with such remarkable talent as Bhaskar Paul, Neeraj Brahmankar, and Abhirun Das.

Here, I would like to thank Aimen Siddiqui, Director Content, Daastan, I have learned a lot from her. I would like to thank Sidra Amin, Co-founder, Daastan, for my professional training. Syed Ommer Amer, Founder, Daastan, is also a great mentor and I am blessed to have these people in my life.

7. When editing manuscripts, what key problems did you realize the aspiring writers were facing?

Talking of the writers from Pakistan, here I will start counting the issues from the root to stem level i.e. from what is wrong within to what is wrong on the outside.

The first and foremost problem is writing for the sake of becoming famous or earning money. I personally believe that one should write because they love it not because they want to earn through it. That “Greater the reward, the best the input” philosophy does not apply here. It is a different world with unpredictable possibilities. Therefore, restricting yourself to a monetary reward is not a good idea.

Second, is overconfidence. It prevents them to absorb criticism down their skin. Therefore, talking of my experience here, I did come across some new writers who were not able to accept any kind of criticism on their manuscripts just because some XYZ friend said they have written a masterpiece. I would like to tell those friends that you are not doing justice with your comrade; you are rather becoming a core reason for their downfall when they step into the real world.

Thirdly, coming to the stem level now. There are good writers who open-heatedly accept criticism but lack professional guidance. Most of the publishing companies have proficient degree holders in literature from foreign universities who lack the sense of commitment to educating. In that case, where should a writer with a brilliant story idea but weak language and grammar skills go? Because, you know, the parameter set here to judge a story is not the story idea, it is rather the language skills.

In a society where to be able to speak English is considered as a massive feat, people who go abroad for studies return to Pakistan and look down upon the locals who have yet to develop their English communication skills. Why cannot they return to Pakistan and educate those who aspire to become better?

It is my request to everyone, especially the literary squad, that instead of demotivating the local talent by pointing their language mistakes, try to figure out how this issue can be resolved. In addition, in the quest to do so, even if a manuscript with a great storyline but with a few errors goes in the market from your hand, never hesitate. This is the same ideology that we are working with at Daastan and The Ancient Souls. A lot of criticism does come our way, but that is okay when the authors are satisfied. We are trying to educate them as best as we can and will continue to do so.

8. As an editor and a mentor, what message will you give to aspiring writers enabling them to become better writers?

Read books, lots of them. Reading is the fuel to a writer’s mind; it will keep your imaginations in constant motion and will let you create brilliant stories. In addition, it will help you improve your language, familiarize you with new words, help understand the tenses and narrative styles in a better way.

Also, make it your habit to learn one new word from the dictionary per day with its meaning in your native language. Install Merriam Webster Dictionary on your smartphone and learn new words on the go.

Make yourself comfortable at rough writing. Do not get into the formalities of editing right at the time when you start writing. First, write what you want and do not let the thought of making mistakes hinder your flow. Once you are done writing, read the whole thing at least 10 times — trust me the new aspects that you will come across are limitless, and after finalizing it from your end, ask at least three people to proofread it for you. For the most productive reviews, look for people outside of your friend circle.

Last and most importantly, open your doors to criticism, be it good or bad, no matter what people throw at you make yourself habitual of grasping something fruitful out of it.

9. Your message to the youth of Pakistan?

Ignite the passion to educate the masses in your hearts, never look down upon anyone, never allow anyone to crush your self-respect, make empathy your greatest tool to deal with any challenge that life puts ahead, don’t promise someone something you cannot do for them, grab the opportunity when it knocks your door — don’t ever think of any job as little no matter how higher a qualification you have achieved. Never stop thinking, creating and trying.

Never quit, remember if you did, 20 years from now, when you will see a friend who despite of failing a hundred times didn’t give up and achieved something big out of sheer hard work, you will hate yourself the most. Quitting in my view is shameful. So, never do anything this shameful in life that in your future it makes you hate yourself, see you are not aware of the day you wake up and all this guilt from the wrong things you have done in your previous life will clasp your throat to suffocate you in all the unwanted ways.

Do what you love, don’t compromise your ambitions, and if you are not able to achieve one thing set a new goal for yourself. Explore, the universe has a lot to offer, you never know which string is bound to be your way towards success.

Writing it Right

NaNoWriMo Special: Want to create chapter outlines for your story?

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Nanowrimo is just three days away. The excitement is filling the air. Writers and aspiring authors would be preparing the outlines of their novels. Being a writer and an author myself, I thought of sharing with writers and readers of the world a little plan I made to assist you in creating chapter outlines for your novels.

As a writer, you would have an idea of how to write your novel. Your novel will have the following elements. There are many more elements but I am narrowing it down to the following five:

  1. Characters including a protagonist, an antagonist and other characters
  2. A Story including the beginning, middle and the end
  3. Dialogues and action along with the character’s thoughts
  4. Plot and setting
  5. Climax

Creating Chapter Outlines: 
While you would need to have an outline of your entire story to help you write better, you would also need to have outlines for each chapter. This will let you follow a clear path of story progression from the beginning until the end. I have devised an easy way of creating chapter outlines which I am also following for this year’s Nanowrimo. Here it is:

For each chapter, fill in the following parts:

1. Chapter Number:
It could be 1, 2, 3 so on and so forth

2. Chapter Name:
Write the name of the chapter

3. Characters Involved:
Write down the name of those characters who will be part of this chapter. Each chapter is either about one character (The protagonist, the antagonist or another (supporting) character taking side with the protagonist or the antagonist. It could be a combination of two or more characters)

4. How it begins:
Write down a few lines of how the chapter would begin

5. How it ends:
Write down a few lines of how it ends

6. Other details:
In this section, write in bullet points what else you want to include in the chapter which will become the middle part of the chapter and will create a link with the chapter’s beginning with its end

Why write the beginning, middle and “other details”?

Writing the beginning and ending will give you a sense of direction for each chapter. When you begin the chapter you connect it with the previous one and when you end a chapter, you end it with a question, a mystery or a cliffhanger, which includes a character’s pledge, foreshadowing, demand for action, a statement that creates curiosity, or a provocative question.

Once you have written the “other details” of the chapter along with how you will begin and end the chapter, it will give you a bird’s eye view of each chapter. When you begin writing the novel, each chapter outline will give you clarity and motivation to assist you in writing it.

Happy Writing!

Interviews

“I write because it makes me feel good.” Exclusive interview: Kinza Javed Choudhry, author of ‘The Rainbow Journey’

Pictures were taken from Facebook: @kinzajavedchoudhry and provided by Kinza Javed Choudhry

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1. When did you first begin to write?
Reading and writing have been my favorite hobby since childhood. When I was eleven, I used to write stories and keep them in my drawer. This continued until I was fifteen. A strong desire of writing ‘something good enough to be published’ arose within. My best friend motivated me to write more. My relationship with writing began soon after passing my Matriculation (grade 10) exams.

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2. Which novelists, authors, and columnists you like to read?
J.K.Rowling, Nicholas Sparks, Khaled Hosseini for English novels. Umera Ahmed and Nimra Ahmed for Urdu. I have never read columns, as a major part of my interest lies in novels particularly related to the genre of fiction and fantasy.

3. Did you ever face the writer’s block? How did you overcome it?
Yes, I faced it quite sometimes while writing my first novel. I can only write more and well when I can feel the situation or the characters that I am writing about. To overcome this situation, I would write sentences whenever they came to my mind and then compile them in a proper way later.

4. Tell us briefly about your book and from which genre it belongs to?
“The Rainbow Journey” is an English novel belonging to the genre of Realistic fiction. The basic theme revolves around Love, Lust, and Friendship. The word ‘Rainbow’ is for seven friends and seven phases of their ‘Journey’, which is life.

5. What inspires you to write?
I do not actually possess a reason to write. I write because it makes me feel good. When I cannot express my feelings to anyone, I simply write and capture them in words.

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6. What was the most challenging part from the time you decided to write a book to the time you became a published author?
I had no idea how challenging writing will be to me when I first began writing. Being an Engineering student, I did not find enough time to work on my book. I used to write whenever I got time. However, I had no idea of how to get the novel published once I had completed the first draft. Perhaps the most challenging part for me was to search, find and contact publishers and publishing companies.

7. What amount of research went when writing the first draft of the book?
I needed a lot of research to go into my book since I am an Engineering student with no English/Literature background. I never took any course in English or literature. It was my vision that stood by me during this process of research, writing, editing and publishing.

8. Which authors are your favorite?
When I choose books for reading, I mostly do not look at the author’s name. So far, my favorite books include Jannat k Pattay (Nemrah Ahmed), Peer e Kamil (Umera Ahmad), Harry Potter Series (J. K Rowling), The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini), Karakarum ka Taj Mehel (Nemrah Ahmed), Me Before You (Jojo Moyes) and all books by Nicholas Sparks. The list goes on but I would definitely like to include ‘The Rainbow Journey’ in the list.

9. What key qualities transform writers into successful authors?
Hard work, Stability, Passion, and a strong will to compete and survive.

10. Your advice to aspiring novelists?
No matter how challenging writing becomes for you, keep writing. And remember, reading is essential for writing. Read, write, have faith in the Lord and be confident when pursuing your passion of writing. One day, you will become a successful author.

Writing it Right

The beginning, middle, and end! – A short introduction

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Image Source: http://images2.fanpop.com/images/answers/9000/9292_1240256843151_450_300.jpg

Any short story, novella or novel must have a beginning, middle and an end. A beginning is a part where the author introduces the story to the readers. It is in this part where the characters are revealed, the setting and plot becomes evident and the theme is established. During the middle part of the story, the characters develop, entwine in the life of other characters and their own subplots emerge. During the middle, the author puts in the rising action and the conflict. This conflict creates tension in the plot as the protagonist and the antagonist and other supporting characters begin to evolve further. Also in the middle is the plot twist, which can bewilder the reader. By the end of the middle part, the conflict becomes thin and the protagonist resolves the conflict. The end of the story/novel shows how the conflict ends or in some cases, how another conflict begins that predicts the arrival of a sequel to the short story/novella/novel.

During the middle part of the story, the characters develop, entwine in the life of other characters and their own subplots emerge. During the middle, the author puts in the rising action and the conflict. This conflict creates tension in the plot as the protagonist and the antagonist and other supporting characters begin to evolve further. Also in the middle is the plot twist, which can bewilder the reader. By the end of the middle part, the conflict becomes thin and the protagonist resolves the conflict. The end of the story/novel shows how the conflict ends or in some cases, how another conflict begins that predicts the arrival of a sequel to the short story/novella/novel.

By the end of the middle part, the conflict becomes thin and the protagonist resolves the conflict. The end of the story/novel shows how the conflict ends or in some cases, how another conflict begins that predicts the arrival of a sequel to the short story/novella/novel.

The beginning, middle, and end of a short story/novel will be discussed in detail on this future in the future.