But these books would completely overwhelm someone who hates to study, or consistently gets bad grades and believes that they aren’t cut out for school. These students would be put off by elaborate systems or checklists or any method that required them to spend a lot of time understanding how to study before actually sitting down to do it. In my book, I have tried to keep things simple, and give tips that all students can use straightaway to make a difference to their grades, alongside highlighting the cutting-edge research that could help a student to dramatically change their grades without necessarily substantially increasing their study time.
Geetanjali Mukharjee – 20 December 2015
The Back Flap
Do you wish you could get better grades? Do you struggle with certain subjects and believe that maybe you’re not cut out for them? Do you want to spend less time studying and still get good grades? Maybe you think that some subjects are just not for you. Maybe you don’t like to study, because you secretly believe that you just don’t have what it takes, so why bother? Maybe you are a parent, worrying about your child’s grades, worrying whether they will be able to qualify for the opportunities you want for them.
Studying for tests and exams can be stressful, not just for students, but also for teachers and parents. Grades in school exams and standardized tests can seem to determine your entire future, and yet many students are not able to get the grades they think they need to succeed.
This book draws on research from the fields of psychology and neuroscience, and gives you practical advice that you can implement right away, to overcome procrastination, make the most of your study time and improve your grades significantly.
Anyone Can Get An A+ contains 39 tips on various aspects of studying and preparing for exams. In this book, you will learn:
- How best to prepare for exams
- What is the top mistake most students make when doing exam preparation and how to avoid it
- How to overcome procrastination and use your study time wisely
- How to break down larger assignments into smaller chunks
- How to use small segments of time effectively
- How to get help to understand difficult material
About the book
What is the book about?
Firstly, I want to thank The IndieView for this opportunity, and generally for the fantastic service that they provide to indie authors!
The book Anyone Can Get An A+ is basically a how-to guide, aimed at students of all ages, to help them to improve their understanding and mastery of whatever subjects they are learning and get better grades. In this book, not only do I draw from my own experiences as a student, I also provide practical suggestions from the fields of cognitive science, neuroscience and behavioral psychology that help a learner to most effectively use their time while studying and significantly improve their results.
When did you start writing the book?
I actually started to write this book, or rather a version of it, many years ago when I was in high school. I had applied many of these techniques to go from almost the bottom of the class to acing my O-level equivalent exams and getting the highest grade in my school. I wanted to share my techniques with other students, so I started to write the book, but I never did finish it. I found the old manuscript among my papers from high school one day.
In April this year, I wrote the complete first draft of this current book. Although my earlier manuscript wasn’t included, the book is based on the lessons I learnt while studying in high school, and then later on in college.
How long did it take you to write it?
I wrote the first draft of the book in three weeks, but the editing and re-writing process took about 2-3 months.
Where did you get the idea from?
Well, I based most of the book on my personal experience and lessons that I learnt while studying. However, most of the strategies in the book are backed up by research. A few years ago I started to read up on the subject of study skills, learning and skill acquisition – related but different fields. I was no longer studying, but I came across some books and blogs that were breaking down in detail what strategies worked and which ones didn’t. I found all of this really exciting, and spent a lot of time reading, and even taking notes. I started a notebook where I jotted down all that I learnt, and then started to write down my own past experiences in school, and analyzing what had worked for me and what hadn’t.
I eventually decided to turn my notes and research into a book because I found a few glaring gaps in the guides that were aimed at students. Most of the books were a little too thorough – the systems and processes they detailed were ideal for a motivated student who wanted to improve their grades a little, or wanted to ensure they did everything absolutely right. But these books would completely overwhelm someone who hates to study, or consistently gets bad grades and believes that they aren’t cut out for school. These students would be put off by elaborate systems or checklists or any method that required them to spend a lot of time understanding how to study before actually sitting down to do it. In my book, I have tried to keep things simple, and give tips that all students can use straightaway to make a difference to their grades, alongside highlighting the cutting-edge research that could help a student to dramatically change their grades without necessarily substantially increasing their study time.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
I struggled to simplify the extensive research I read on the intricacies of how the brain learns a new skill, there was just so much information, and I wanted to convey every little nuance, which of course was impossible. As I said earlier, my goal was to show a student who is struggling with his or her classes that there was absolutely nothing wrong with their brain, it was their method of learning which was deficient, and with a more effective approach and adequate effort, they could dramatically improve their grades. I didn’t want this message to get lost in a sea of information about neurons and white matter, so I had to edit those sections of the book several times, each time taking more and more material out.
What came easily?
The parts of the book where I shared my own experiences with difficult subjects and how I handled them came easily to me, for obvious reasons. My only concern with these sections was that I wanted to make sure these examples were relevant and useful, and not just an opportunity for me to talk about myself!
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
Over the years many authors have influenced me, especially my desire to be a writer. However, since this is a non-fiction book, it’s probably more pertinent for me to give examples of non-fiction authors, but do bear in mind that these are just the few names at the tip of the iceberg. Most notably the writers whose work inspired me to write non-fiction, and whose books are on my bookshelf, are Malcolm Gladwell, Thomas Friedman, Julia Cameron, Azar Nafisi and Marian Keyes (the latter for her excellent books of essays as well as her fiction). As you can see, this is a wide range of writers, and I could probably provide a few dozen more names. I chose these particular writers because regardless of topic, the prose of these authors is readable and yet gripping enough to get you to keep reading, and I can just start reading from a random page in their books and find myself want to keep reading.
Julia Cameron’s book The Right to Write in particular was the catalyst that got me to start writing, even if initially only privately, after years of yearning to be a writer but not having the courage to take the first step. The style in which I wrote this book was influenced by the dozens of self-help and how-to guides I have read over the years, although these books aren’t usually given much credit for their writing style, there are several pointers that I picked up for conveying ideas in such a manner that they become easy to understand and hopefully to implement. I also tried to maintain a light-hearted, humorous style in this book, one that was probably although unconsciously influenced by Marian Keyes’ irreverent, self-effacing tone.
Do you have a target reader?
My target reader for this book is all students, but particularly those students (and their teachers, parents and family members) who believe that they aren’t smart enough to do well in school, or to take on a specific subject, or who would like to pursue certain academic goals, but believe that their abilities and grades are an insurmountable obstacle against accomplishing those goals. I want each such person to read my book, because I firmly believe that most students who are struggling to master a subject, and failing, are given inadequate information about why they are struggling and what they can do to overcome it. I was just such a student in school, and although I managed to get good grades even in subjects that I dreaded, in my heart I never overcame that belief that I had done well this time, but truly I wasn’t cut out for these subjects and should steer clear of them. Maybe if I had known then what I know now, what I have written in this book, I could have pursued many other fields of study that I cut myself off from, thinking I wasn’t smart enough. I don’t want any person to feel like that, and anyone who does, is my target reader.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
I usually write my first drafts longhand, sometimes in a dedicated notebook, sometimes on one side of used printer paper. I like to use something as everyday as possible, so that it will signal to my mind that there is no pressure, the writing is no big deal, I am simply jotting a few thoughts down. Once I have a written draft, I type it up (this can take a long time or not, depending). I try to refrain from making major edits as I type, or differentiate the edits from the original. Invariably, at this point I realize that the draft is dreadful, and despair that it could ever improve.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
I usually don’t outline till I have a draft, although for Anyone Can Get An A+ I had jotted down a list of topics to write about, in no particular order. I am still refining my writing process, but at the moment, once I have typed up my draft, which for this book I did in Scrivener, I try to move the pieces around till I am happy with the structure. Then I edit the individual chapters and sections.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
I wait till I have a complete draft before I start to do major edits. For this particular book, I completed the first draft pretty quickly, but the edits and rewrites took much longer. Most chapters and sections of the book were completely re-written, or at least edited quite extensively. For my last couple of books actually, I have started to create a map. This is basically a hand-drawn table, where I list each chapter, and where I am in the editing process, according to a scale that I developed for myself. This may sound a little obsessive, but I basically assign numbers to the different editing stages, and describe what each stage entails, in order to break up the work of editing, which can loom a little large. The color-coordinated map enables me to see at a glance where I am in the editing process for each chapter.
I edit for content first, chapter-wise, and then do a round of editing polishing the prose, ensuring that awkward or truncated explanations are made smoother. Once I am satisfied, I do a final proofread. All my editing is done in Word, because I am addicted to the track change feature. I also keep a cuttings file, where I put in passages or sections that I don’t want to delete – this allows me to be ruthless when I am editing, knowing that I can pick up those passages for use elsewhere if needed. I also create a new version of each chapter for each major phase of my editing.
Did you hire a professional editor?
No I haven’t yet hired a professional editor. I do have a lot of experience working as a professional editor myself, for journal articles and magazines, and I use that background for my own writing. Since my own editing background is restricted to non-fiction, I would need professional help to edit fiction.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
I usually like to listen to music while writing first drafts, or doing the tedious parts of writing such as checking references and compiling the bibliography. I usually edit in silence, but it’s not a completely hard rule. I also listen to music when I am writing in a public place, to minimize distractions. Each book usually has a different soundtrack. For my book on cluster munitions, I listened to Celtic music as a nod to the location of the signing of the Convention. Anyone Can Get An A+ was written while I listened to classical music (I played Handel, Mozart and Beethoven on a loop), and was edited to Coldplay and Gregorian Chants.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
No, I knew that I would be self-publishing this book when I started to write it, as this is my fifth self-published book.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
My very first published book was traditionally published, and while I am grateful for the opportunity, there were several aspects of the process that I was less than pleased with. My first self-published book was actually rejected by the same publisher, even though I was convinced there was clearly a market for it. I actually came across the opportunities for self-publishing much later, but I immediately thought it was a great option for that book, eventually published as “From Auden to Yeats.” I actually wish I had discovered self-publishing sooner. I think it suits my temperament – I love to do things myself, and the freedom to make all the important decisions regarding my work, and be able to change them later, really appeals to me. At the moment however, I haven’t ruled out traditionally publishing future books if I get the right opportunity.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?
I did it myself, and have done so for all my currently published books. I have loved the process of getting to experiment with design and learn a lot, but as I branch out into other genres, I will probably rethink doing them all myself.
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
I guess it’s kind of both – I have a plan, but I keep modifying it, and as new opportunities come up, I look at them as well. I am still learning about the business of self-publishing, so nothing really is set in stone.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
The advice I would give is to read as much advice as you can, but at the same time consider your own personality and ability. There are many different paths to success as an indie author, and sometimes the sheer volume of advice is overwhelming. Focus on who you are, what resonates with you, what is important to you, and use that as a way to steer your own path as an indie author.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in India, initially in Calcutta or Kolkata as it is now know, and then moving to New Delhi just before high school. I believe both cities shaped my worldview, but my desire to become a writer was definitely stoked in Calcutta, where books and learning constantly permeated my environment.
Where do you live now?
At the moment I live in Singapore, but in the past I have lived in UK and the US, while attending university and studying for my masters’ degree respectively.
What would you like readers to know about you?
I guess I would like to say that both I and my writing are constantly evolving. I am hoping to write in several genres, and experiment with various other formats such as writing plays, screenplays and short stories. I have ideas for many more books, and I hope that any reader who comes across my work, finds at least something that they like. I also am really happy to hear from readers, or answer any questions on the writing process or being an indie author, so please feel free to just send an email: geetanjalimukherjee dot author at gmail dot com
What are you working on now?
Currently I am writing my first novel as part of Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month), and also working on a book of essays and a work of narrative non-fiction.
End of Interview: