I met this restless , super energetic and a really interesting author at JLF this year. Little did I know, that merely a 15 mins long conversation will thrust upon a life changing lesson for me and hopefully now to many more aspiring writers.
So here’s award winning author Jerry Pinto, talking about, his book, his first break in publishing & some hardcore number crunching that raises the barometer for focus and discipline in a writer’s life.
Writing & re writing : All that made Jerry Pinto invincible
He wrote the first draft back then as 16 year old , he found it terrible and wrote it again and again for over 30 years. So here’s some number crunching on how the first draft of the novel came out.
- 1000 words a day , including sundays
- 1000 X 365 days which is about 3.65 lakh words a year
- 3.65 lakhs X 5 more than 15 lakhs words in 5 years.
I kept on Writing for 5 years till it became a huge pile of over 15 Lakh words ! And this was a huge pile of handwritten papers of over 15 lakh words , 4 times the size of War and Peace. Because I truly believe that a writer is the one who re writes.
And I thought “Ismein kahin ek novel chupa hoga”.
And then I left it for 3 months . I took off . I lay on my back on the floor , only in my shorts and I watched world movies I ate lots of rubbish. I went for long walks in the city. I was on home vacation. I did all the things that I love. I had a holiday. After these 3 months , I started reading . In the first 10 sections , first 1 lakh words I that I read were complete rubbish. They were so totally bad that I actually though that I can never be able to write a novel . I was actually feeling bad. I was crying … thinking I wasted 5 years on this shit. And 5 years is all gone
I was still consoling myself , “Koi nehi journalism to kar sakte hai” There are other things to do “novel nehi hua to kya hua? Let it go. And then suddenly I stumbled upon this one scene in the Bridge Candy hospital where Em is being taken to a Lithium Carbonate Test. And I began to think if I can put my name on this section, it will be all right. Ye Jerry Pinto Ka likha hua hai. Because everything that you sent out has to be owned by you , you are the brand ambassador of all your words & stories. So I realized this is my best . So I thought OK this can be a short story. I began to find other bits of interesting pieces. Then reading that whole stack I finally got my first draft manuscript.
Bollywood style narration at a dream table & getting the first book deal
It was like a Bollywood narration for my first book at the JLF . Naresh Fernandes & then Suketu Mehta got me to the right table and announced, “Now Jerry will tell a story about his family.” was sitting. David Godwin said at the end of it , if you ever write this down, I will be your agent. And the next, Salman Rushdie said that I could make the reading from a telephone directory also exciting ! On my way home in the flight , I realized & thought to myself in a full filmy style “Jerry ab mauka hai” “Loha garam hai maaro hathoda”. I decided to quit my job as a journalist. And I decided to do no other writing. Just do this writing. “Pehli dhaar jo hai wo novel mein jayega “
So I made a pact with the universe , that I will not do anything else till I finish my everyday’s writing target including brushing my teeth. So that I am not tempted to go out, or do anything till I finish this.On some days it would be like 9 o clock till 1000 words are over , sometime it will be 4 o clock by the time 1000 words are over. But I did not stop this & I kept on writing and re writing.
That first novel ‘Em and the Big Hoom’, inspired by his mother’s battle with mental health issues has recently won the very prestigious Yale University’s Windham-Campbell Prize.
The Big Book : Em and The Big Hoom
I have this feeling that I have been put upon by the world. I have been badly done by the world. My mother had a mental problem and other people’s mother seemed to be so nice. They cooked for them , cleaned them & they stitched their uniforms when they were torn, while my mother would say well nothing can be seen, so it is ok , go back to school. And if I said what’s for dinner, she will say, what do you think? Coca Cola and bhajjiyas. Would that be nice and then we finished eating Coca Cola and bhajjiyas on the rare occasions we did , we throw the paper on the floor and go off to sleep. No one bothered about the average things that other kids did. And therefore because I seem to be leading the charmed life that the every other kid wanted , I wanted the un charmed life with the discipline of their world. So I wrote a very martyred novel, of how terrible it is to have a mum like that.