Sharing my thoughts on “Writing Fiction” from the Second Story Mirror Creativity Workshop, which was organized in association with Story Mirror, Apparao Galleries and Aspiring Authors Group. The workshop was conducted in collaboration with the famous Film Director / Producer as well as a fine Tamil Haiku writer N Lingusamy and popular romantic fiction Author Meera Shiva.
Author Meera Shiva, Me and Director Lingusamy
at the Story Mirror Creativity Workshop II
Why people write?
As the tight grip of Publishers, distributors and established & influential Author’s nexus loosened up on the Publishing Industry in the Kindle Age, the floodgates opened up for new authors and new writing styles. Every day, there are millions of books getting published through online platforms. But why this rush? No one is actually making money apart from a very miniscule number of online authors. So why people are writing all the time?
As I thought more about it, I realised that there are few other reasons beyond making money…
– To become known as Authors
– To be acknowledged as Intellectual
– To leave a legacy
But underlying all these perfectly valid reasons, the driving force is one’s own ego satisfaction…
But not every one is writing for their ego. Certain passionate and sincere writers, according to George Orwell, write for other reasons too, e.g.
1) Aesthetic enthusiasm
2) Historical impulse
3) Political purpose
But like all good things in life, to seriously write good fiction, you need to have this intense desire for self-immolation to illuminate the world around you. One can never be a writer in its true form, if you are in it just for the sake of money or fame…
WHAT IT TAKES…
One of the reasons I write, is to hear the silence of my reader, thinking…
However as Milan Kundera said once, “Any work of art has to have a purpose of its Existence”
So if you have an undying compulsion to write otherwise as Rilke said, you will die, then go ahead and write. But like all things, there are techniques and tools to become a good writer and there is a way of writing a good fiction…
THE PROUSTIAN WAY…
“There are two methods by which a person can acquire wisdom, painlessly via a teacher or painfully via life, and the painful variety is far superior.”Marcel Proust
“The greatness of works of art has nothing to do with the apparent quality of their subject matter, and everything to do with the subsequent treatment of that matter.” Marcel Proust
Since most of us are not like the author like Proust, at least not yet, what do we do? Well the good news is that whoever has survived childhood and adolescence, has a story to tell. But the bad news is that writing is not a cakewalk or a stroll in the park. It requires discipline, a will to step out of our comfort zone.
And over the period of my own journey towards writing my books – The Monk Key Series – first of the three part series is already published as “Songs of the Mist”, in which the Monk says to the protagonist Ashutosh, “Every one can bring meaning to one’s life by doing things with passion and love. Even the smallest of life rises up to its full potential with its devotion in doing what the universal design brings along your path. So if you seem to be going nowhere, Ashutosh do not blame living, blame yourself.”
But before I describe my way, here’s a Reality Check. If you are interested in writing something good that will stand the test of times, ask yourself these questions…
Konark @ Shashi 2010
1 – Are you passionate enough…?
Willingness to put in sweat, blood and toil day in and day out.
2 – Do you have necessary tools…?
If you need dictionary to write, please don’t. Should be adept in the language one is writing.
3 – Room of your own…?
As Virginia Woolf asked in her famous lecture at Oxford’s young women students, are you financially comfortable? You know most of us writers don’t make enough money to survive.
4 – Are you going in right direction…?
Are you writing what you love and passionate about or writing what you perceive to be the best selling genre.
5 – Are you in hurry…?
Are you looking for becoming overnight Internet sensation? If you are, there is no one who can guide you to become one. So stop reading stuff like this and pray for luck.
All good things life needs time and effort to manifest and sincere effort at that. So, unless you are a celebrity and have million followers on your own or through reflected glory of a celebrity friend, relative or lover, you need sustained effort and hard work over time to write something good.
MY 7-YEAR PLAN TO WRITE GOOD STUFF…
It is known that if you start today with zero knowledge on any subject and work diligently towards acquiring necessary tools, knowledge and technics, in 7 years time, you can become an expert in the desired field. So writing a great book is not impossible. You just need to focus on your goal and discipline to keep writing and honing your writing skills.
For many decades I knew the story I was going to share. But only in 1987, while meditating on the banks of holy river Ganges in Rishikesh, I got inspired enough to share my stories of heart break and pain and the resulting spiritual journeys and assimilated thoughts.
However, as soon as I actively started writing in 2010, I realised that writing and publishing a book is a difficult task. Then my training as an engineering professional, kicked in. I knew that to solve any problem the first step is to know what the problem is. And yes, getting your book published at that time was a big problem. I remember talking to one of the author in Hindu Literary Festival in Chennai and asking him, how to get a book published and he gave me the perfect answer… ‘Write the damn book’.
HOW TO WRITE THE DAMN BOOK?
Even in today’s connected and equally chaotic world, good writing is not about being restless or quarantined. Aspiring Authors just have to work on every aspect of creative process to produce good results and on every aspect of connectivity to reach out to the right readers…
To write a good book and publish it, one has to work on these 3 aspects – Simultaneously
1 – Inner Awareness
Mark Twain said once, “Adam was the only man who, when he said a good thing, knew that nobody had said it before.” So we all have every word of the story all around us, within our inner-self but as I have quoted Proust earlier, we need to treat those stories with our own unique awareness. And that comes from actively working on it.
– Deep Observation
2 – Conscious Mind
We should write in a language, where we don’t need a dictionary. So if you are writing, you need to have the right tools. Practice the language; write something you are passionate about. I started writing my public blog in 2010 with start of my book writing and it gave me a firm footing to test my language and see if I am on the right path.
I wrote daily, whatever way the story came into my words… by 2014 I have had written 500,000 words – the first book started with 125K words first draft and published ‘Songs of the Mist’ has 76K words. Suffer if you didn’t write some day as Hemmingway used to.
Read and read a lot. There is no substitute to it. I cannot sleep if I don’t read a book. In this year’s Good Read Challenge, I have committed to read 50 books and have completed reading more than 100 books as of now.
Look within your self, find pieces of characters – we have all the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of our self within, don’t judge, write about them, develop them. It is also an exercise of catharsis.
Whenever an idea, thought or character appears, write it down. Watch people around you, think about their life and their thoughts, go to stations, movies and park, observe and write.
Travel, travel wherever and whenever you can. Preferably take the train or bus, if time permits and walk or trek around the place. Carry a pen, small notebook and a camera. For decades, I have been travelling to Himalayas, Spiritual places, Monasteries, temples, rivers and sea side within country and abroad. Write about it somewhere as I have been sharing at my blog as spiritual travels.
3 – Practical reality
When I started thinking about publishing my book, I looked around and felt that the most of the published authors are not so great. I felt that I am unique and the moment I finish my book, the publishers will be queuing up to sign off a deal. Well it does not happen. Even though each one of us are unique, but is it something that people are looking forward to embrace. I have had seen many author’s book die a silent death as it did not reach out the right readers. So have a plan and yes in this Internet world of connectivity, where millions of other authors are trying to catch the proverbial short attention span of Netizens, you do need to reach out and market your book like crazy, as long as it is not intrusive and irrelevant. Here are the things that I did.
My communities on Google Plus
– Even before I started writing my book, went public online. I created a blog and wrote about creativity, Spirituality, Writing and designs, which went on to become the No 1 Spiritual Blog of India within 4 years, as selected by credible aggregators of Indian Blogging community for the last three years.
– Joined FB, Twitter, Google Plus. Interacted within relevant communities like Good Reads, Quora, Book clubs etc.
– Created groups like Haiku (one of the best communities on Haiku at Google Plus where more than 1000 poets write their Haiku), Aspiring Author’s Group, Shadow Dancing with Mind, How to publish etc.
– Joined off-line book clubs, writing groups and networked with like-minded people in literary festivals across the country.
With Timeri N Murari
Over the years, I realised that it’s me who has to reach out to the right audience and readers for my books not the other way around. Marketing is not about being intrusive; it’s all about being interactive, proactive and helpful to the readers and the audience.
Finally, I would like to say one thing that the world needs its authors, who are the mirror to the society we all are living in. We are there to host, to heal our readers within the pages of what we write.
As my friend, philosopher and guide – a famous author from Chennai Timeri N Murari said in one of my Story Mirror Creativity workshop, “Write for yourself first, without any thoughts of future result” echoing the famous Bhagwat Gita Verse 47 from Chapter 2
Karmanye vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana,
Ma Karmaphalaheturbhurma Te Sangostvakarmani
You have the right to work only but never to its fruits.
Let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction.
The 3 Part Book Series, follow the life of a mysterious Monk and a young heart broken boy in Himalaya, who is on the path of self discovery. The first book "Songs of the Mist" has been published in Dec, 2015 to wide critical acclaim.