Beginning this week, I am starting a new series on the blog. Guest posts from folk who have something interesting to say. My little effort at giving back to the blogging community for all the love I’ve received over the years.
Why I’m a crowd sourced author, and five things I learnt from writing my last series
When my last book in the Ruby Iyer series released, I was cautious about the marketing. I knew I didn’t have a choice (or did I?) I assumed I had to go out there and talk about my book, and my writing process and get interviewed in newspapers, and on BBC Asia and write for the Guardian; basically try everything possible to get myself and Ruby out there. And yet the question I kept asking myself all through was. Am I doing this purely to feed my ego – just to be called an author? Had I yet earned the right to go out and tell people about my writing? What about the actual craft of writing. How much had I mastered that. Really?
Yes, I had this amazing character with an incredible energy that drove the plot … But had I given it my best in terms of digging out her hidden motivations, why she did the things she did?
So, I re-visited the craft of writing. And this is what I learnt.
1) It was really important for me to understand why I write:
This book in particular, The Writer and the Hero’s Journey by Rob Parnell, really spoke to me. In this Rob Parnell likens the author’s journey to that of the Hero’s journey. And how writing a book was actually a discovery of oneself. So we are all on our own Hero’s Journeys, which we explore through writing the book. This, I realized, was the crux for me. I write to be read, but more importantly I write to plumb my own subconscious mind. To understand why I do the things I do. And in uncovering the motivations for my own life I was finding out what drove my characters.
2) I am a crowd-sourced author:
Today, nine months down the line, I am re-editing The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer. That’s one of the advantages of electronic publishing. You can go back and re-edit. And re-visit again if you feel you want to change things.
Many liked The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer. And readers were invested enough to make suggestions, on what I could do better. You could say I was learning on the job. The question here is of course when is better enough, good enough? Who do you listen to and who do you disregard. My thumb rule is if 8 out of ten genuine readers have the same comment then I need to go revisit. And when I have an invested community of readers I will listen. I want to listen and go back and change till I know I can’t do more.
3) I’ll never stop learning:
How many times will you do this you ask? Keep re-editing the novel? Right now I am on my third big re-edit. Part of this process was also joining an online writer’s course where the group critiqued pieces and I had a wonderful tutor who actually took the critical parts and showed me how I could rework it more effectively. So I know I’ll never stop learning this craft. And yes there comes a point when I’ll say this is it for this book and then use what my new knowledge in my next book. I hope—fingers crossed that this is my final, final edit of Many Lives and now I use what I’ve learnt to finish editing The First Life of Vikram Roy.
4) I’m only as good as my book
The marketing is a necessary evil. Let’s be honest. With the amount of content out there, the only way for readers to pick out what you write, is if they’ve heard about you. So yes it’s something that has to be done. And by all means I will use social media to do that. But it’s far more important to write a good book. I firmly believe, if it is the best I’ve given it, and if it is different, and timely then it will rise to the top. Perhaps, slower than if I was out there shouting from the rooftops about it. But the ones who like it, will read it and tell the others about it. And that is far more valuable than me constantly promoting myself. I am optimistic enough or perhaps just foolish to hope for a day when I don’t need to social-sell myself anymore. That my body of work will do that for me.
5) It’s a marathon not a sprint.
It’s about getting up every day, and doing what needs to be done. Day after day after day. Which means, I need to want this badly enough. Really more than anything on this planet. The moot being – What do I want more than anything? The ego-kick of being referred to as an author? Or that I want to understand myself and the world around me and how I fit into the cosmos? Cue typical writer existential crisis, and yeah, that hasn’t passed me by unnoticed. Still I’ll put it out there.
So, I know which space I fall into. And you?
Laxmi Hariharan is the author of the Ruby Iyer Series. Download the first novelette in the series, The Ruby Iyer Diaries, FREE from Amazon here