Sunday, May 27, 2007

How To Write a Novel - Part 2

Make Inspiration and Opportunity Coincide

The frequency of my writing this blog tells you of the biggest problem I faced while writing my novel. It is all about making inspiration and opportunity coincide.

People have different styles of writing. Some people make outlines of the novel first. The main characters are fleshed out along with key twists in the plot. I have tried many different approaches. I have tried the whole approach of spontaneous free flowing writing. I would just sit down and write a few sheets - yeah in that red colored notebook that I had mentioned. After writing for some 30 odd pages I decided to read the manuscript. Nothing made sense. I needed to edit it. I went back and forth and edited the pages by putting notations and punctuations. I used a different color pen to do the edits. Eventually it got too complicated. I abandoned the notebook. It was a bit unfair to the notebook that had actually made the whole novel happen. It is funny but for a while I carried a sense of guilt about using a laptop to write. Maybe some of that showed up while I wrote about Priya getting abandoned even though she was responsible for getting Abbey into MIJ in the first place.

Lessons learnt: Use a word processing software. It makes editing so much easier. A random emotion could be the springboard from which a character may take shape.

I faced another major problem. I painstakingly tried to transcribe everything and put it on my laptop. As soon as that happened I faced the dreaded thing called writer's block. I would just sit and stare at the screen and nothing would emerge. Some friend told me that Hemingway had advised writers to sit down at a fixed time and write something everyday. That kept the writers' block away. Great suggestion I thought. Then realized that if I could write something everyday, why would I be complaining of a block? Maybe great authors like Hemingway just had no clue of people like me.

That sterile phase continued for almost eleven months. During this time I had not made much progress beyond adding the odd chapter to the 30 pages I had typed out from my red notebook. In February 1998, I got transferred to a new role in Colgate and had to be based out of Kuala Lumpur.

The new job demanded one hell of lot of travel. All my plans of writing on the plane or in the evenings when I would be back to my hotel fell by the wayside. There would be a million little plot lines I would have thought of during the day. By the time I would be back to my hotel room, I would be so tired and sleepy that all I could do was to say like Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind, "I will think about it tomorrow."


ketki said...

writting a novel is a real tough job!
all the best to you!

japinder said...

Hi Abhijit....i could so much relate to this phase of sterility...i've struggled through it myself. I'm writing a novel-in-verse, and it's got back to track only now, after a long frustrating period when "the syrup just wouldn't flow".

Do visit my blog sometime...will love to have a published author's feedback on my stories and poems.

And....congrats for the book deal....that's great :)