How to write your first novel…My novel writing journey
January 11, 2022
Namaste! Let me begin with expressing gratitude. Not only because I am obliged by your presence on my site but also for the fact that this presents yet another opportunity for me to connect with a literarily inclined soul. I am sure the reason you chose to come here must be your love for reading or a spark of desire to write a book yourself. The ability to romance with the words is a trait to relish. Congratulations. As far as I am concerned, having spent half a century dreaming about the feat, I recently published my first book- Rage Against The Dying Of The Light- still savoring the flavor and the fame. Here are a few excerpts from my experience, as well as a few insights ebbing out of it. Read on and feel free to latch on to them should you wish to put your thoughts to words.
Writing, like any other creative field, is an intensely satisfying endeavour. It lets you to have a dialogue with yourself, pondering over thoughts and questions that you otherwise tend to avoid. In this sense a man primarily creates for himself, to give shape to his own thoughts and his expectations from the world he lives in, but while writing this book I realised that there’s a bigger reality that having a dialogue with our prospective readers is a more important necessity. The message must cut across. What we expect from the world is comparatively dwarf in relation to what the world expects from us.
Eleven years ago, my elder son suffered from a rare critical illness, and that too without any warning signs and symptoms. During the subsequent months, a daunting struggle ensued to find the diagnosis and when the diagnosis finally arrived, an even bigger battle to chase the cure was awaiting me. That was the darkest period of my life, and its memories were haunting me day and night. The anguish was rising within my mind as an impending volcano of words searching for a vent out. Since literature provides the greatest platform for moral introspection, I took refuge in reading books. Writing, I guess, was a natural progression, and it helped me restrain those terrorizing words into the confines of a book.
I won’t say that the book has made me hugely popular, but as a candid confession, I must say that apart from my personal satisfaction of indulging in the process of creating it, I am loving the small yet bright shade of recognition that has come along after the publication. On a personal level, I feel more connected to people around me, especially the ones who have undergone/undergoing such dark phases in their lives.
Let's start writing a book together
How did I start? Well, The thought was brooding within me for quite a long, especially the second part because that was my pressing need to create. I pondered and pondered, flashed the idea through the family, of course, no one took me seriously, till one fine morning, I just picked the laptop and started typing. My first two attempts were not only futile but also were not worth showing to anyone, the scenes I wrote were binned and never crossed my mind again. There was a lull after the discouraging bid but only temporary. My stubborn trait forced me to continue. However, once started, it felt as smooth as a damsel’s skin, lovely to say the least. I would have completed it earlier, but given my professional preoccupation and the eccentricity of mood that I suffer from, it took two long years to finish this book. No, no… it is surely not to say that it may take you as much.
1. Every book begins with an idea
For me, it was comparatively easy, barring the sentimentality of the topic, of course, since the idea was already in my mind. It may not be the case with you, but I’ll say our own story is the greatest story of our lives. Taking a leaf out of it may be the easiest way to start, to make it the focal point of your narration. Someone very rightly said, ‘even the wildest of human imaginations are based on reality.’
2. Decide a set-up
Every story, whatever genre you may decide, be it romance, mystery, thriller, or even sci-fi, needs a background frame. In ‘Rage against the dying of the light’, it was the campus of a medical college and the hospital that formed the skeleton of the story. And yes. be sure to put enough flesh around the skeleton. So that brings us to our next point.
3. Research your topic extensively
What adds authenticity to your work is the amount of effort you put in discovering the details, the paraphernalia, even the minutiae about the topic chosen. While it is arduous to invent a de-novo kind of text, the set-up chosen coupled with the groundwork of research imparts your idea a fresh new flavor. At the same time makes the writing pragmatic and engaging. Otherwise, the narration may mimic an endotracheal tube hanging from the side of the neck and the hero reciting his dying declaration while still intubated, kind of an old Bollywood flick. We can’t be this flimsy. So, if we are writing medical fiction, it will do good to study the diseases and the patients.
4. The real test
The real test of patience and caliber about writing a novel is writing itself. One needs to plan, organize and discipline his writing. While most authors prefer to adopt a standard approach of deciding about the structure of the story-forwards, i.e. deciding first what the beginning would be, how the body would look like, and then marching ahead towards the climax. I, personally, prefer to follow what I call is. ‘the inverted pyramid approach. The ending is the first thing that comes to mind, and then the story’s conception traverses a caudal route. The writing, of course, follows the traditional path. In the case of my novel, the ending was predetermined and was the purpose of creation. But for my other stories and blogs, it has always been the inverted pyramid.
Once the beginning and the end are sealed, the body of the novel has the liberty to take a rather fluid course, curving as per the moods of the characters created, and as per the space needed by each one of them.
5. A few additional learning points.
Discipline: As in any other work, the need for a stringent writing schedule or discipline can never be over-emphasized. Following a regular writing pattern, even if just a modicum of your daily time, is always desirable and key to the successful completion of the project. Most of my writing was done in the early mornings when the rest of the family was sound asleep. It had the dual advantage, distraction-free mind, and no hindrance to my regular hospital work.
Read as much as you can: Reading other authors’ work helps you develop a perspective, the way to approach a scene, enhance sentence structure. It engenders a thought process that may be totally unrelated to the subject matter but useful. It is important only to read, finishing every book is not mandatory. The writing that impresses you will most definitely reach the completion point. Personally, I like reading intense books, books that are high either in the emotional or philosophical quotient. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, A Man’s search for Meaning by Viktor E Frankl, and When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi are my all-time favorites. All three have rescued the glitches of my writing, and whenever I have found myself wandering into a black hole of thoughts, searching for ways to put them into words.
Character development: Pay special attention to writing in detail about the lead characters of your story. Well-described characters keep the reader’s interest alive and help build a personal connection. In my case, the protagonist Neel was but a part of me, so writing about him didn’t require any extra effort. But, other characters like Riya, Sexy, Dirt, and specially Dang were meticulously conceptualized, I suggest at least the main ones should be written separately in as much length as possible and then trimmed down to fit the story if needed.
4. Writing software: Finally, a word about the writing software, which one to choose? There are a couple of good writing softwares, some of them are free like Reedsy, Focus writer etc, that can help you organize your writing into a neat collection of chapters, assist in keeping the snippets of your writing discrete, and even give you an organized format in which to pitch to different publishers. There are also a few good software for editing and checking the grammar and spelling, even making a suggestion on your writing style. Grammarly and Prowritingaid are the two that I found useful.
Everyone has a story, every picture tells its tale, so gear up and start writing, or continue reading to acquaint yourself with newer perspectives. Reading is a beautiful hobby. Consider yourself lucky if you belong to this cosmos of books, cultivate and relish this so very exquisite taste of yours. Remember, writers write only because there are readers to read, so don’t forget to applaud and encourage the writers whose work appeals to you.
This is me signing off for today. Do let me know if you like the content of this blog. I’ll be back soon to tell you about the publishing and the book marketing journeys.