You want to write but don’t know how to begin…

Visiting book shops with Nobody’s Child

I must begin with an apology. With only 2 published books to my name, I’m no authority to guide aspiring writers but given the limited experience I have, I want to share some of my learnings. Hence, this post.

In another life, I used to be a freelance writer , writing for publications & companies. I’ve done that for nearly two decades. However, it was only in 2014 that I began writing my 1st book. Writing a novel is a different ball game.

Below are few things I have tried on myself. I hope it helps you in your writing journey too.

STOP TALKING ABOUT IT

If talking about writing could get the job done then there would be no problem. So if you’re serious about writing, stop talking and start doing. It’s time to walk the talk. Some know what they want to write but lack the discipline and courage to take the plunge. If you fall in that category, help’s coming few paras down. If you have a vague idea, a ghost of a story that lingers in the far recesses of your mind, get down to it right away. List down ideas or themes as they come to you. Read books in that genre. This could trigger a well formed plot. You need to and have to spend time thinking long and hard about this. Set aside a time every day, when you can be undisturbed. Lock yourself in the room and scribble or type in random thoughts. Think hard what you want to do with the themes. Believe me, inspiration strikes in a flash but you have to prepare the ground for it.

STOP DOING FEW THINGS

You have to make a few, actually a lot of changes to be a writer. You have to forgo social gatherings, fun lunches, impromptu shopping jaunts and etc. Don’t get me wrong I’m not asking you to live the life of a hermit or a social recluse. But if you don’t put aside time every day for this, you’ll never get started. Writing like any other craft needs devotion and time. I made a lot of changes in my life to be able to write my first book. As Ann Patchett writes in her marvelous book This is the story of a happy marriage says; “Show up, show up, show up. The muse will too”. What does this mean? You need to sit with your writing pad or laptop whatever is your chosen writing mode. You need to do this every day. The Muse will come to you. The Muse isn’t your wife or mother who will cater to your whims and fancies. She is your lover and you have to woo her, court her, pamper her. She is temperamental. So show up for her. Every day. And she will come to you. She always does.

SET A ROUTINE

Jot down your thoughts

Many may disagree with me but it helps to set a routine, at least in the beginning. I find it best to write early in the morning, before the crack of dawn, before my family of husband, son and two dogs wake up. So pick your time of day when you think you can get an hour to begin with, undisturbed. Sit down with your thoughts and writing pad every day at that time. Our mind and body follows a routine. Compel your mind to think and write at a particular time to start with. Once you are in the rhythm you will need to increase the time. This will be a struggle to begin with but if you do so for a few weeks, it will get easier.

USE WRITING PROMPTS

If you’re having trouble starting and don’t know what to write but desperately want to; then start with writing prompts. There are websites galore that offer these prompts. If you sign up with them, a new one will be delivered to your inbox every day to flex your writing muscles.

If embarking on this solo journey is daunting, you can get yourself a writing mentor. While this may not yet be prevalent in India yet but there are few established authors who are willing to help aspiring writers. They coach you, hand-hold you through the stumbling blocks and most importantly keep tabs on your writing progress.

JOIN A WRITERS’ GROUP

Writing is a solitary act, done in solitude but it doesn’t have to be in isolation. You write alone but being part of a group will give you company, solace and help when you need it. And believe me, you’ll lots of it. You can exchange ideas, reach out for help, critique each other’s work.  Sometimes it will help just to share your frustration and rant. It helps to know that you aren’t alone. Others face similar problems. For new writers who are just starting the journey, this is a good thing to be part of. It will motivate you to keep writing.

ATTEND BOOK EVENTS & LIT FESTS

At Times Bangalore Lit fest, 2019

Why am I suggesting this? If you want to get somewhere, be in the company of people who are already there. At book events and lit fests, you will hear authors talk about their book, their writing journey; not only will you learn a lot from their talks but watching them with their book will give you the added boost to push yourself. You’ll imagine yourself with a book in hand talking to the audience. It will fill you with i-must-do-this feeling. I used to do this a lot before my first book A Forgotten Affair was published.

 EXERCISE

Yes, you read that right. Exercise. Engage in some form of physical exercise that makes you sweat. Sweating not only cleans your pores, it also helps clearing the blocks in your mind. You may not realise this initially but if you do this regularly, you’ll thank me. When you sit with the story every day, think about it all the time, allowing it to churn in your mind…when you exercise, you get clarity. It will help you tide over the blocks. So don’t forget to exercise.

Writing isn’t easy

The rate at which books get published, it would be easy to believe that writing is easy. It’s not. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the story will just gush out of your head. You’ll have to work very hard. The story will sometimes gush, sometimes trickle and then there will be days when not a word will come out. I told ya, the Muse is temperamental. And it’s very easy to give up when the going gets tough. When the words refuse to flow. When you feel flummoxed where the story is going. It’s not an easy phase to be in. It’s frustrating, emotionally crushing and you’ll ask yourself: do I have it in me? It’s natural to self-doubt. But don’t give up. When you get stuck, remember it’s the Muse testing your commitment. She is watching if you’ll give up or stick to course. This is also a time when your exercise regime will help.

DON’T HURRY

Writing isn’t a sprint run. It’s a marathon. So take it slow and steady. You don’t have to finish the manuscript in a month or two. No harm if you do but don’t rush it. Spend time with the story. It will evolve and  grow beautifully. Stephen King says, “You should have the first draft done in 3 months.” While King is God, I don’t agree on this one. I took 7 months to do the first draft. Take your time but set a deadline and stick to it.

From a person who has written all her life and published her second book in August 2019, I can tell you, this is the most amazing journey you’ll ever take. You’ll rise and fall. You’ll stumble, rave and rant. You’ll want to give up. But then when you finish it…the feeling is something else. The sense of achievement in knowing that you didn’t give in. You didn’t stop. That you did it!! It will change you in ways you can’t even imagine.

So, write-away and write-on!!

Do leave your comments if you feel like. Share your experiences if you want to.

4 thoughts on “You want to write but don’t know how to begin…

  1. Very nicely put, Kanchana. Helpful too… The only thing I do not agree with is when you say that you aren’t an authority to guide aspiring authors! (but we have had that discussion offline and can continue that too :-))

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  2. Interesting thoughts and tips. No doubt that all of what you say is true for many writers, and above all, one can’t undermine the importance of exercising, which truly does flip open many closed doors within our minds. These are individual journeys, yet at some point we all agree, that there is nothing like writing itself- the discipline of it. Glad you put it out there Kanchana, these are imperative personal essays, once shared, can help many aspirants.

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  3. Very good advice. Some valid and interesting points. Setting a routine is the most difficult thing for me. Thank you for sharing your insights. And you don’t need to apologize. You’re experienced enough to suggest writing tips to the aspiring writers, even published writer. Your dedication/discipline is inspiring.

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