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8 ‘Easy’ Tips to Become the Next Big Author

“There’s nothing to writing. You sit at a typewriter, open a vein and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway.

How-to advice for an aspiring author are a dime-a-dozen on the net, as I realized when I started working on this post for Writersmelon. For everything from how to write to how to sell, there’s someone claiming ‘been-there-done-that.’

Like me.

So I decided to make this simpler, more… fundamental, if you will. Having worked with a lot of authors as a literary consultant, in addition to getting my own debut published recently (Kalyug, by Westland), I have learned quite a few things (the hard way) about writing and getting published. Here are some of them:

Tip #1: Write what you want to.
Don’t be swayed by present trends – don’t try to write what you think will sell. The biggest names in Indian writing have all earned their spurs by daring to carve their own niches. I wouldn’t have written Kalyug if I had waited for the political-thriller genre to become a big deal in India. We would certainly not be seeing so many classic-themed works today if Amish Tripathi hadn’t started the trend with The Immortals of Meluha.

Tip #2: Be prepared for a long lead time.
There’s a long lead-time between writing a book and getting it published. I started Kalyug in 2012 and finished it in late 2013. It was another ten to twelve months before the book hit the shelves. You can get to market faster by publishing your book yourself (more on self-publishing vs professional publishing in a later post) but if you are going to write a book whose relevance is time-bound, you’ll have to work backwards from when you want it to come out.

Tip #3: Don’t write unless you are ready
There’s a difference between a book that forces you to write it and one where you are forcing yourself. In many, many cases, I have seen that the former kind makes for more powerful prose – honest, unique, empathetic. If you are the sort that thinks you should write because you should be writing… wait. Wait until that urge to write (a book, a chapter, a scene, whatever) consumes every thought, every moment, every twitch of your fingertips!

Tip #4: But write anyway.
Here’s a caveat to the previous point: the best cure for writer’s block is… writing. Sometimes, you have to force yourself to write. Sometimes you end up trashing most of what you write. But just the process of getting those words out helps. I trashed the first six versions of my second novel Chakravyuh (at different stages of completion) before hitting on what I really wanted.

Tip #5: Your book will have a life of its own.
What you see in Kalyug today isn’t what I had in mind when I started writing it; the same is true for a lot of books I have worked on as a literary consultant. So, changes will happen – big or small; initiated by you or by your editor. It’s not a bad thing, or even a necessary evil (unless, of course, econo-legal considerations force the compromise) – in many cases, I’ve seen that an author discovers so many more possibilities when (s)he is not blindly bound to a certain progression.

Tip #6: Be open to feedback but be steadfast in style.
Accept inputs from your editor or reviewer where narrative elements such as plot, characterisation, dialogues are concerned – there are certain expectations you have to meet. At the same time, do not sacrifice your style. An author’s voice, at the end of the day, is as important as what is being said.

Tip #7: Understand the book’s life cycle.
It is important that you understand the different stages your book will go through from ideation to publication.
First draft –> First preview (friends, family?)
Second draft –> Professional review (agency/consultant/ editor) –> Rework (even if your friends have told you it’s perfect the way it is, remember that they don’t want to discourage you. But in that blind praise is perhaps the biggest danger to your growth as an author)
Resubmission –> Line-editing (this is the stage at which you may need to perfect your language and grammar, not earlier) –> Final review
Submission to a publisher or publishing it yourself.
Tip #8: Hope for miracles but don’t count on them.
The publishing industry, especially in India, is dominated by safe-bets like Devdutt Patnaik, Chetan Bhagat, Ravi Subramanian, etc. If that’s the level you want to get to, be prepared for a long, hard slog. Overnight wonders are rare and – if
you look closer – did not just stop at writing the book but also worked their backs off promoting it. It takes a lucky mix of timing, style, content and innovation to get even the best authors off the ground. Be advised: you can be either a lazy author or a successful one, but you can’t be both!

All the best, and happy writing!
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R. Sreeram is the quintessential Indian – loves cricket, spends a month’s salary on gadgets and is stubbornly opinionated.
He’s written a few poems and short stories before Kalyug, and often threatens to pen a few more. In what he sees as an ironic twist of fate, he too has joined the engineer-turned-MBA-turnedwriter bandwagon that he once pooh-poohed.
He lives in an undisclosed (for obvious reasons!) location with his wife and the laziest dog in the whole world (who takes after him in that respect). He blogs on ramsutra. blogspot.com.

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