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  • Writer's pictureKaren Divya Shekar

The 6 Year Journey That Led to My First Book

Updated: Jul 12, 2021

I began writing my first full length “proper” novel when I was in my third year of engineering college. I was 21 years old, and I wanted to write a story with a plot as “complicated as lace”. The story had to be full of exciting sub-plots and choc-a-bloc with deeply flawed characters.


My inspiration for the style of the story came from two books—The Case of Exploding Mangoes and Candide. However, I also wanted a highly philosophical theme to the whole book as I had admired that approach in The Brothers Karamazov. I credit these three as the foundational inspiration for the book I eventually wrote.


Growing up, I had half-written a total of 6 novels. The first one I had begun at 8 years old, so I have had enough practice at writing! Looking back, one of the things I am most proud of myself for doing was having one dream and sticking to it like a barnacle.


Today I’m going to answer some questions to chronicle my 6-year journey! It’s not an anniversary or anything. It’s just something I want to process.


Why did I decide to take the plunge?


I had the idea for the story in my third year of college. I had begun sketching out a plotline which changed every time I worked on it. The plot at this point in 2018 was supposed to be a love story set against a political background, with elements of black comedy and heaps of eye-rolling sarcasm.


I was so lackadaisical about the whole thing, partly because I never believed in myself at all, that I progressed at a snail’s pace. I don’t think I even had a first chapter written.


Then I had this now or never moment at NIT-D while I was pursuing my Masters.


I decided that there were two things I would regret the most if I had to die tomorrow. One was not having my own family, and the other was never having become a writer.


So I took the plunge. I went back home and started work on Overlords, which is the name of my “opus”.


Nobody knew. I told no one. Why make a song and dance about it?


Did I give it my best shot?


No, I didn’t. And I don’t know why I didn’t. I lacked the determination to see it through to the end (though I did complete the first draft). Or, it’s probably because I never believed anything good would come out of it, even though I wanted it to.


I made the mistake of wanting the novel to result in something substantial. Yet at every step I questioned why I should put in the effort if it would only crumble to the ground. It’s a bit like saying, why create something if no one likes it?


Too many assumptions. Too much second guessing.


I have since learned a BIG lesson which I will expound on in upcoming blogs.


Why did it take me so long?


Well, yes, 6 years is a long time.


First of all, I didn’t have a full outline. I made it up as I went. I just started with a very rough plot, and I kept adding to it. I had to tweak it when things made no sense, which meant a lot of rewriting.


The first idea was to have Ruchika and Nitin elope. Later, they became cousins and just had one conversation that was supposed to change the course of the story. So you’ll understand how much time that evolution must’ve taken!


Also, the novel was in 6 parts at around 400 pages in total. And I wrote at a rate of 200-400 words a day. So you can imagine the snail pace!


What was the experience like?


Lonely.


I was alone most of the day since I worked in secret. I hid it from my family because I knew they wouldn’t approve. So I wrote on the sly. This sounds very silly now…


Also, there were so many frustrating moments when I was hit in the face with a plot loophole. Felt like ripping my hair out. When any attempt to smoothen the loophole into the main storyline was met with deleting entire chapters, I cried. It was frustrating to lose whole chapters of 1000 may be 2000 words.


Overall, my method of starting a novel without a definite structure was a terrible idea. Never attempt it.


I rarely felt accomplished. I seldom enjoyed the process. I was nervous, afraid, and taking the biggest risk of my life. I can’t say I was happy all the time, but I did it. The worst part is, when I finished, there was no round of applause, no laurel wreath, nothing: just stone cold silence and me.


That’s why you write first and foremost for yourself. It matters to no one but you. Be warned: nobody wants to read or buy the stuff you write.


What would I have done differently?


So many things. I would’ve planned the book first. I would have stuck to the plan and not changed it for anything. I would’ve written 3000 words a day. I would’ve believed in myself. I would’ve shown the idea to someone older and wiser and asked for input. I would’ve discussed it with someone since I had no sounding board. I would’ve have spent time building character profiles. The list is long…


Is writing a book easy?


No. And any successful author knows it.


I can testify firsthand that writing a book is a combination of madness, hard work, and self-belief. There is no logical reason why you should do it. You do it because you want to tell the world something so bad you know you can’t keep it in, no other reason. Because as a money-making scheme, this one is a bummer.


Am I disappointed it didn’t work out?


If I’m wearing my practical hat, no.


But at other times, YES. Rather strange, I think.


What right did I have to believe I would become a successful writer at first shot? What sign? Nothing. It’s a risk, as is everything.


But I don’t know if the experience was all bad. While ‘Overlords’ didn’t work out, I did go on to self-publish my first work.


I wrote some stories for my old blog Escritoire, and I turned them into a short story collection released in March of this year. It’s called Bilkhu and Other Short Stories, and you can read the e-book on Amazon Kindle.


Writing my short stories was a more relaxed process because I had zero expectations. I just wrote what I wanted, how I wanted. I never thought I would publish them. I just wanted to create for the sake of creating. I felt that old rush and thrill return.


If it comes from the heart, you have no regrets, even if it doesn’t work out.


Because the heart knows what it wants.


If only it got what it wanted…


3 comentários


Convidado:
02 de out. de 2021

You were meant to write. If God planted that dream in your heart, pursue it, cherish it, fulfill it.

Curtir

sharonpriya6
06 de jun. de 2021

"use what talents you possess; the woods be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best"

Curtir

Elisha Francis
Elisha Francis
06 de jun. de 2021

Awesome! Keep writing keep inspiring.

Curtir
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