#OnWriting4: Writing 101! by Varsha Dixit

By Varsha Dixit

Writing is easy, but writing well enough to have someone publish your work, is painfully hard. And if it was easy, where’s the fun in that?  Till you don’t go through the grind of writing innumerable shitty drafts, misery ridden days of feeling your writing isn’t good enough even for pre-schoolers, profuse meltdowns cursing the minute the story idea took shape in your head , you can never fully enjoy being a published writer.

Now that my debut book, ‘Right Fit Wrong Shoe’, has sold nearly 10,000 copies, and gone into third print run in its second month (two earlier ones sold out), I can look back at my journey, which officially began in October 2006, as a writer, objectively. Upon receiving so many queries from aspiring & wannabe writers, I decided to pen a few tips that were and still are, key to my own writing process – a journey that is ongoing and forever learning. Having no one, truly, to guide me, I figured these on my own. However, if I can help anyone to hone their writing skills, I shall rest in peace – at least for tonight. With Christmas being round the corner, I’m, also, trying to earn a few extra brownie points with the man in the red suit.

So here they are:- Research – Detailed research is an integral part of any form of writing. And thanks to the internet, local library and bookstores, it is so damn easy nowadays. Few things to research and read up on – Similar Genres (don’t worry about anxiety of influence); Fiction or nonfiction style of writing; book markets; agents; publishers; factual events, if any, mentioned in your manuscript. Every form of writing requires research. DO NOT shy from this one. The more you read, the more you learn. The more you know, the more convincing your writing comes across. Even Fiction needs to seem real for the readers to believe or identify with. For e.g. How did Robert Ludlum get us gorging on his stories of retrograde amnesiac, Jason Bourne? How did Tom Clancy make Jack Ryan so heroic, so credible? One can feel a similar connection with Harry Potter or Edward Cullen who though clearly abnormal, are still so authentic because of the real factor in the author’s writing. Research is cardinal, in making your writing and characters credible to the readers.

Edit, edit and re-edit – I cannot emphasize on the importance of numerous edits. Remember edits not only make the manuscript tighter, reveal some minute or major structural flaws, trim extra verbiage, but also make the finished work more appealing when submitted. Editors love scripts that require no extra work. Look at it this way; you are hastening the journey of your manuscript from the editor’s desk to the printing press. However, a break of one or two weeks, or a month, in between edits is recommended.

Feedback – Here, I recommend two kinds:     A feedback from friends who like to read the genre you are writing in. Please do not give your cherished fiction work to someone who swears by non-fiction. They just might break into hives and force you to shred your labour of love.     Then there is the professional critique, which should come when you feel your manuscript is ready to be sent out to an agent or a publisher. Get this feedback from someone published, someone professional; someone who will rip open the flaws, without slightest consideration for the thickness of your epidermis layer. You might have to pay for such kind of critiquing. Basically, you pay a literary hit man to bust your chops. J     However, an important tip -Do not follow any opinion blindly and learn to discard, judiciously. You know your story best.

This was originally published here and has been reproduced with permission.

(Varsha Dixit is the author of the bestselling novels, Right Fit Wrong Shoe (2009), Xcess Baggage (2010), Wrong Means Right End (2012), and Only Wheat Not White (2014). She worked in the Indian television industry before moving to the US with her family. Her recent novel Rightfully Wrong, Wrongfully Right is available here.)

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