How to write a novel in less than a year? Telling you frankly, there are ‘n’ number of ways to do that. And then if you ask, how to write a bestselling one, I would say, still, there can be ‘n’ number of ways to it. But I think, I should only share with you the way I did it. Because that would be like walking-the-talk for me. By the way, I was also inspired to write this blog post by the daily questionnaire I encounter from readers/ writers on my social networking ids asking for help regarding the same. So, keep reading if you want to know about this story, this story of turning a complete non-writer (I used to be so bad with words that even my ex-girlfriend used to tell me not to sing songs. As according to her, I was bad at remembering words and always used to spoil the songs with my wrongly added lyrics.) to writing my first baby novel, ‘The Stupid Somebody’ which is doing fairly well on the bestseller’s list, and more importantly, it is touching everyone’s hearts.
So, let’s roll the dice!
No. 1: Dreams are the royal seeds:
It was turning to be a not-so-exciting day for me until when a friend of mine proposed to me this wonderful idea of, no points for guessing, writing a book. My love for movies/ books/ tv/ web series, in short, storytelling was not hidden from my closed ones. But before this day, I had a notion about writing which was- it’s completely a non-lucrative profession. My friend started selling me the idea this time with some more facts and figures. He introduced me to some new fiction writers from India on social media who were making big in this literary industry. X, Y and Z to name a few. If you are reading this, most probably you would be already acquainted with their names.
Although I had already encountered with this amazing idea of me becoming a writer several times now (Yes! Some of them thought exactly the opposite of what my ex-girlfriend used to think then. Strange! Isn’t it? My conclusion: Don’t take other’s opinion seriously until you yourself have given some serious thought over them), this time actually I started thinking over it. Its like every other day your mother asks you to get married, and you daily shove the idea off. But then one fine day, you actually start thinking about it (after all life is not all about only being happy. It’s also about getting married. P. S: I am single). I started to at least think about the idea sincerely.
From that day on I started googling about it. And to my astonishment, I found both types of articles- ones which glamorized the Indian writing industry, and others that said writing in India has no money, especially in novel writing.
Actually, the real question I had in my mind was, are people in India really willing to read books, especially fiction. Are we Indians really readers- this was the real question that was lingering in my mind. But why this question? It was because, I believe there are majorly two types of writers- ones who write for themselves and the others who write for others. Later I came to know that I was the one who falls exactly in between the two. So, for me knowing the answer to my question was pretty important.
From that day began my journey to fulfill my quest about two things- one, the inns and outs of the industry, and two (the more important one)- if I could actually write.
No. 2: R&D is the new foundation to success, and maybe the old one too:
My first phase of research and development (R&D) went on for the next two months. My Mom or Dad or any friend or even relatives never used to tell me this. But I had observed some of the successful people doing it (research and development), and I followed the suit. Because when it comes to becoming successful in anything, you got to listen more to the ones who had already made it, rather than to the ones who are just concerned about you and haven’t been on the path themselves (listen to them too. They are your well wishers. But, decide things after a thorough research). So here’s what I found:
About the industry-
My research started from following all the big writers and even the new famous ones on Twitter, Insta, Facebook, etc to reading 20-30 books in those two months, mostly Indian bestsellers and even some foreign ones. I started talking to the people associated with this industry as writers, publishers or in any which way. During the process, I even met one of my favorite web-series writer in Mumbai and discussed with him about ‘writing as a career’. My direct question to him was- how much time would it take for me to write a novel from being the one who has never written anything in his life? His answer to me was to write for minimum two years, and to take my bad writing out. And after those two years, maybe I could think of writing a Novel and publish it. That day, while sitting on a tea stall just out of his office, I was planning on how to prove him wrong. Haha.. But seriously, his advices were useful and may be that’s the ideal way of doing it. But for me, ideal has always been boring.
After questioning and discussing with every person whom I came across in the past one year, I came to some conclusions. Here they are:
1. 90% of the people in this industry are clueless about the real things. My questions felt alien to most of them. Only very few could satisfy my hunger for answers, real ones. Thanks to them. I always believe, to get the right answers, one must ask the right questions, and also to the right person. Otherwise, it would be like asking an infant did he/she like Game of thrones. I mean, it won’t make any sense.
2. Currently in the writing profession as a Novelist in India, only a very small percentage of authors make so much money as to rely for their livelihood on it. That percentage is as low as between 2-5 percent.
3. Almost 80-90% of the writers don’t even sell more than 200 copies in their lifetimes.
4. A big percentage of publishers survive in the market because of those 80-90% amateur, without-any-preparation kind of writers who commit to them to purchase their own books, if it doesn’t even cross a few hundred copies. Beware of them. I mean, its not wrong if they ask for it, after all they are here to make money. But putting in no effort to make the book successful (or just putting in very little just for the sake of show off) is a wrong way of doing business. There are very few but really good publishers who are focused for your growth. They are clear, that it is the only thing that will make them grow as well. Look for them.
About my writing and audience (readers) building-
I should have done this even before giving time to know about the industry. But as I told you, ideal is boring for me. The first step in writing for me was when I wrote a short story (an incident from my life when I was in fifth grade and was bullied by a boy double in weight and size to me) and showed it to two of my close friends. It was like once when I was in school, I thought of singing in our school’s annual function. What I did was, I sang with all my heart in a closed room in front of my friend and then asked him what he thought about it honestly. His reply made my would-have-been-a-rockstar career end then and there. I thought he was right about it. I was really pathetic, even more than Ajay Devgan in the movie Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Fingers crossed, I asked my friends how was the short story. Guess what, two out of the two didn’t like it much. And one of them even said there was nothing really good in it. I asked, nothing! Really? But I was confident of my skills of, not writing, but of sensing a good story and storytelling. So I kept on writing. Meanwhile my sister, niece and a few liked my style of writing.
Also in the mean time, I planned on to build my readership along with writing my Novel. It was also a way of learning. As we know, one cannot learn swimming without getting into water, I planned to write NanoTales and short stories and to directly post them on social media to get public feedback. But before posting anything, my approach was clear, that once anything is published from my side, it would not remain mine after that. It would become a piece of writing for the world to see and judge me too. So I made sure not to post anything before I was completely satisfied with it.
I wrote, when satisfied myself- showed it to people, learnt, and moved on. And then repeated the cycle.
No. 3: Plant you butts somewhere and write your bestseller:
The reason I shared with you the above things is because, without those, I wouldn’t have written the book it is today. If the roots are strong, the tree would flourish. Try and make the foundation strong before investing your time and money in the building.
So, now comes the most enjoying yet challenging task for a writer, i.e, writing. If you don’t love this part- stop reading now. If you do, pay even more attention.
Now since I have written a fiction-novel, I will talk about that, but I am sure this would help you in writing a non-fiction one too.
– First things first- you need to have a story to tell and the aim of your story/book must be crystal clear in your mind, if not more, then at least equal to how Arjun (from Indian epic, Mahabharat) used to drill through his targets. After that, nourish it and go deep into your story. Remember, it’s at the depth of an ocean, where pearls are found.
Now play the whole story in your mind, day in and day out thinking about all sorts of emotions and whether they will engulf the readers into them or not. See, this world mostly moves on emotions. Love, nail-bitting thrill, suspense, care, compassion to name a few. You need to understand this.
In my case, the thing that helped me immensely in this was my interest in listening to good stories. I am a big movie (hindi, english, punjabi, telugu, etc.) and Hollywood tv series buff. Sorry to say, but I was not an avid reader, especially of fiction novels before I decided to write. Now I am. No comparisons to reading versus watching a movie or any other medium. Now I believe, the ones who don’t read are deprived of experiencing the wonders of imagination.
– Next step is to write the story down. As when we were in schools, some of us used to study by making points. If you were one of them, it would help. Write the whole structure of the story in the form of points first (chapters in this case). After the structure is made, its now time to dive inside each chapter and explore it to the full.
Talking about the technical part of writing would someday be another blog post, because it is a vast topic in itself. And maybe I would be sharing about my journey of writing in my next novel, or maybe next to next, clubbed up with a fictional tale. As for now, I would share with you the most amazing tip my English teacher in school, Late Mr. Joseph shared- Observe. If you can observe things around you, you can learn almost anything by yourself.
– A tip: Keep the first draft always as the most precious jewel you have. Because those are the true, real emotions you yourself felt while writing the story which you are never going to get back whenever you write again. Now re-read, re-write, repeat. For your information, I read my drafts for a minimum of thirty times. Do you think it’s too much? Depends what standards you have set for yourself. I thought it was less.
So, choose a story which is worth telling, which is worth your time and effort and also which is worth a reader’s time and money. If you don’t have it, don’t start. I repeat, don’t start it. Nobody else should be convinced about the story as much as you need to be. Opinion of others won’t matter much then. Because if one must go with what people think, we wouldn’t have witnessed a Harry Potter or the amazing world of the Meluhans or even The Stupid Somebody. After choosing the story, remain in the world you yourself created for 26 out of 24 hours, jot it down, read again and keep polishing until you are fully satisfied. Now give the book to a professional editor to edit it. Choose which type of editing you want, substantial or copy editing (Google these terms if you are hearing them for the first time). And then final proof reading must follow before getting the book printed or published. You can always ask the guy or girl who you think you will want to edit your book to first show you some samples of their edited work, or even you can send them a chapter for editing as a sample work. Choose the editor wisely. In case if a big publishing house takes your book, they bring in their own editors.
Ch. No. 4. Myths about publishing in India (Get literate about the industry you want to be in):
Most of the times we are fooled because of the fact that we want to remain illiterate in most of the things. And, not to my astonishment I found the same was the case with publishing as an industry. Just like any other industry, there are good publishers, as well as some not-so-good publishers. Due to lack of knowledge, we as newcomers think publishing is like rocket science, which actually it is not. For getting a book published, one- you need to have an ISBN number (for Amazon, Flipkart, etc), which is handled by a government related entity. Two- if you want, you can copyright your product and make the name of your book trademarked. Read on Google where there’s already a lot of content available about the topic or you can also talk to publishers. The main work of the publisher must be to make your writing even more worthy for a reader to pick it up because of their name attached and also to make your book available at all the leading bookstores, platforms. They also must guide you for marketing and make it easy. Send your manuscript (not full, but a couple of sample chapters at first) along with author bio, contact details, USPs of your book and word count of your book to the publisher (As a PDF file via e-mail or as a hard copy at their address. Every such detail about the publishers is available on Google.)
Ch. 5: Even God can’t make an amazing book become a bestseller without this:
Marketing and promotions! Yes, you guessed it right. The heading was just to get your attention back to the post. Oh! I guess, this is also a part of marketing, isn’t it? To make your product visible and to engage with your target segment.
As a matter of fact I believe,
– an amazing product but bad marketing= not so encouraging results,
– an amazing product but average marketing= encouraging results,
– an average product but amazing marketing= amazing results,
– bad product and amazing marketing= disaster (Even people will find it difficult to trust you the next time.)
– an amazing product and amazing, innovative marketing= magic.
This is what hold true mostly. Except for a few exceptions where product itself is the marketing tool. Ex: Facebook, WhatsApp, Apple products, etc. These days these brands too would have started throwing money on tit-bits of marketing, but they have built their huge empires without involving even a single penny in the same.
Now see, selling platforms like Amazon, Flipkart etc., and social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter are very good platforms (if used wisely and with proper knowledge). You will say, you can always hire a good marketing agency for the same. But let me share with you something I found out after almost 10 years into entrepreneurship. I have observed that almost 90% of the marketing agencies don’t know their work, I am doubtful about 5%, and I am yet to meet those 5% about whom I can be sure that they are master of their art, selling. In short, you need to understand how marketing works and whom to choose for giving one of the most important work related to your book. If we see even big Hindi movie stars in India like Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, they all too put their time, energy and most importantly brain into marketing and promotions. Question is, if they after being so successful can, why can’t we?
I believe in making my own rules along with clubbing up some old ones too. Innovation is the key! Don’t be ordinary and just dance on the old tunes. Traditional marketing is mostly for the lazy people or the ones who have lots of money to burn and don’t have time to learn something new. Make new strategies, come up with some refreshing ideas. Again, observe. If you will observe my strategies for my book, I started talking about my book even 6 months before it got released.
Actually, the topic of marketing is so vast, that it can’t be covered in a single point. Better read some good books, good articles, follow some big marketing experts around the globe on social media. But, give some time to it. Because this is the thing that will make your book turn into a bestseller soon enough to encourage you to write more of them. But ultimately as they say, a good product sells on its own, and nothing works like word of mouth. Again, but you will have to make a ripple of that word of mouth. And in today’s robotic world, you need to sometimes even shout about things to wake people up from their deep slumber of opting for mediocre products.
I hope I was able to impart a little knowledge to you. Hope the information proves useful in your journey of reaching out to the stars. Keep writing, believe in yourself and pen down the next bestseller. After all, this world needs amazing stories. Isn’t it?
P.S: If you still have doubts, post your questions in the comments section. Will try and answer them.
Love and best wishes.