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Saturday, January 18, 2014

When You Write Your First Book...

Many budding writers ping me on and off on facebook to get tips on writing. The questions mostly being the same, nonetheless crucial to somebody who wishes to write the story in his mind and heart, out on paper;  dreams to hold a copy in his hands and his voice reach out to the world. Having known a lot of authors over the span of 18 months of blogging and worked with debutantes as well as established authors for promoting their work I have had a few observations. 
To fill the voids in my understanding and to get a real picture from a person who has been there and achieved it all thinks, I sought the wise advice from Rohit Gore, author of the critically acclaimed book "The Guardian Angels" published by Grapevine India 2013. The points below is a combination of our understandings and experiences hoping it will help a lot of you, who are in the process of being one in avoiding the most common and easily avoidable errors. 

1. Read: The first step towards becoming a good author is to be a voracious reader. Read a lot. By a lot I mean minimum ten novels a month. Read across the genres and eras. Not just what's very popular. Reading is perhaps the most important activity you will do as a writer. The point is that you have to love to read novels. An analogy to that is - Can you think of becoming a good guitarist if you don't really listen to much of guitar?  

2. Discipline: My favorite lines about succeeding has always been "Discipline is the key". Write with a schedule or a target. Maybe you like to write in the nighttime, maybe you enjoy doing it in the early morning. or perhaps you would want to have a target of say 2000 words every day. But either have a schedule or a target or ideally, both. Writing is a craft, like learning to play guitar. You need to practice and practice hard. 

3. The Purpose of Writing: Be clear and true to your self as to why are you writing? Many write to pour their heart out, many write for fame, recognition, money etc. Its important because everything you plan for your book will depend on that. If you are a debutant being too prosaic and writing a 350+ page novel will not strike well with readers in India. Nor will a difficult language do well here. But if your aim is to write for yourself then surely, there are no boundaries until the editor walks in.
Though there is nothing like enjoying writing and that comes when your hear and soul flows out of the pen. When joy means creating great sentences. Rohit here says " Don't write because you feel it's a cool thing to do, or it might get you some attention from people. At the end of the day, writing is very intimate, personal and lonely activity. You have to enjoy the journey."

4. Take care of the quality, avoid repetition. Don't get swayed by the rush to type. English is a great language and you have to respect it. You have to love the words, the alphabets and yes, the grammar too! You must avoid repetitively using the same words or the the same expression again and again, that's the first turn-off for a reader. Continuing the guitar example, you have to love your guitar before you produce good music from it, don't you?

5. Multiple Rounds of Editing: Please do read and re-read your book after completing the first draft. Minimum three rounds of editing by yourself is recommended. Also this is the time to involve, friends, family and contacts who have a good grasp of the English language. Give them the manuscript for comments and critic. Choose people who will be honest with you. If you are a debutant and if you have even the slightest doubt over your language or the story not being crisp then please go for professional editing. I say this because many publishers, infact the topmost reject the manuscript because they think its too long or with too many errors. There are many freelance editors out there, including us who will do a good job. The worst thing indeed will be getting rejected not for the story but for something that you could have repaired. 

6. Spelling Errors: This is not even something to say, everyone hates a book with spelling errors and they have been very repetitive in books from India, sadly. If you as a reader wont tolerate it, nor will the publisher. Also repetitive spelling errors are sign that you simply are lethargic or least bothered. That certainly isnt the first impression any one would want to have when the publisher starts reading your work. 

7. Be a Good Self Critic: Be true to yourself throughout. Are you delivering quality? Is your story a story that readers will love? Honest friends help here a lot. If you are a blogger the best way of beginning is by writing short stories on a blog (start a blog, its for free) and getting honest comments from readers on facebook, twitter etc. You will avoid the most obvious errors in this manner.
Always remember that the story is the boss! J K Rowling has great followers not because she talks about the plight of orphans in the world. It is because she tells a damn good story of an orphan, if you know what I mean here. Tell a story, that's what we as readers really love. 

8. Develop Your Own Style: What is one thing that demarcates an author? Writing style indeed! O'Henry for his legendary twists at the end of the story. It will involve you spending a good amount of time behind it but then its very crucial to your success as a writer.

9. Do Your Homework Well:  The main person who will let your work out into the world is "The Publisher". I am sure many here might argue that now there is e-publishing and blah blah, true there is, but still considering India the traditional hardcopy publishing has a wider reach.
So coming to the point, if your story gets selected by one of the top publishing houses, nothing like it! They have good editing teams, great marketing channels to push your book and a good design team to take care of the final product So all the editing efforts are worth it if you get a crack at this one. Many new authors are told that the traditional publishers do not accept debutantes etc etc. Do not believe just anyone! Check the credentials and credibility of anyone who gives you any advise, especially on facebook. Wait for at least three months from submitting your Manuscript.
A few publishers have a preference for soem genre, example Westland mostly publishes Mythology and fantasy fiction, Jaico - self help, HarperCollins - Fiction etc. If you are writing a genre a publishing house prefers submit your manuscript there first. All in all find out everything about the marketing channels of the publishing house you are going for, especially if its a new one. In the end it has to reach the reader, for them to pick it up!

With the hope that all this helps! All the best, start writing today!

My sincere thanks to Rohit Gore for his inputs.


  1. Wonderful article!! Interesting points can be helpful for aspiring writers...

  2. Yes writing is an art. But the different way of writing a book is also matter. Meanwhile that how to make our writing strategy more admirable.
    Thank For sharing this helpful article.

  3. I have enjoyed reading your articles. It is well written, Thanks for sharing this.
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