A Novel Approach to Writing

by Anita Menon

Bahrain Writers’ Circle’s Online Magazine is churning out its first issue to which I contributed one article. You can read it here or read this post.

I feel a nervous excitement as I give finishing touches to the first draft of my book The Come Back. It has been my pet project for the last eight months. It is a story set in both London and India, where a mother leaves her daughters and moves away to do what she always wanted to do – write books. The story revolves around the anguish and the emotional turmoil of the daughters growing up without a mother, and the father trying his best to find answers as to why his wife left him. Twenty years later, circumstances force the daughters, the father and the mother to come together.

Almost all of the book is on my BLOG for the world to read and comment upon, and that makes for one of the most modern ways to write a book. A whole lot of people now find that writing a book on a blog and using social networking sites can create awareness about their work, which for many has worked in their favour. These days blogging enables writers to create a buzz about their work, even before they have written the first chapter. It also lends the advantage of being able to create substantial mind-space, which comes with great difficulty for a first time author. I have several examples to quote where first time, fiction, non fiction and cookery book writers were able to create enough publicity by blogging about their book first. For example Desperate in Dubai , Don Fry and Prepped by Vanessa Kimble are all leading examples of books and authors who chose blogging as a medium to get their idea across to their readers. Encouraged and enthused by their approach, I decided to give this a try too, and through my blog, am hoping to be able to attract some publishers’ attention. But it was not all sunshine and happiness and I have had to go through my own fair share of heartache and trials before I managed to put my first draft together and so I would like to share with you my journey.

How did it all begin?
I had been actively blogging for just over two years prior to my novel, which had been incredible; I often wondered why, despite the lack of time in my busy daily life, I always seemed to make time to blog! I was addicted to blogging which for me, ensured the instant gratification of immediate feedback (good and / or bad) from my readers and pushing the ‘publish’ button always gave me an incredible thrill knowing that my written word is now out ‘there’ for the world to see, read and form opinions on.

It was then in May 2011, in a hotel room in London when I wrote the first draft of the prologue of The Come Back which I never actually intended to publish online – it remained in my draft folder for the following two months. I then wrote three more chapters following on from the prologue and once again left it unpublished in my draft folder. All the while, however, I kept on blogging about the various other topics and things in life that interested me. And then one day there came a point where I simply had nothing to write about any more and faced a serious case of  writers’ block! It was then that I started scrolling through my drafts for inspiration and I found the prologue and the three draft chapters of what was to be my novel. On a whim, I hit the ‘publish’ button and encouraged by my readers, I then embarked on writing a story that I had had in my heart for a long time.

Why a novel on the blog?
Like I mentioned, I was deep into my addiction with blogging and found it preposterously difficult to write offline in a word document or in a pen-paper format.  I am sure; I wouldn’t have completed the book if I didn’t post it on my blog, chapter by chapter. Guided my own intuition and motivated by my readers, I developed my story and have finally brought it to a point where I am confident that this is something I would definitely like to see in print. By posting on the Internet, there is of course, always the risk when someone can copy my work and present it as though their own, but then I justify my actions by saying that this is only the first draft, which has to be improved upon by many revisions. Also, I haven’t uploaded chapters towards the end of the story, and have graciously requested my readers to email me on my personal id if they want to know the conclusion of the story. So the suspense is still maintained! However, what I have managed to achieve – by putting my story out there in public – is the first level of interest which would have been very difficult to generate otherwise. I have also used Twitter and Facebook to publicize my novel, chapter by chapter which has ensured that all the people who follow me and who have re-tweeted my tweets already know of such a novel being written on my blog.

I get a lot of constructive criticism, if not as comments against each post, then as personal emails. I act upon them with great pleasure because it helps me get better with my thought process. I do also get wonderful emails from people about how much they relate to some of my characters, and that keeps me going too. The impetus of posting is very high since I have my readers regularly emailing me to know when I would post my next chapter. Without any deadline, I have managed to finish my book, which has forty chapters in total, in just eight months and by posting everything on such a public domain has helped me understand my target market better and that will help me position my book better.

How to manage a writers’ block?
During the course of the last eight months, I have encountered writers’ block more than once. It is a feeling similar to when you have something stuck in your throat which you can neither swallow nor cough out. It is a discouraging situation to be in, honestly! With writers’ block you find yourself sitting at your desk and chair, tapping your fingertips gently on the keys but observe that they don’t really have any rhythm. You want to give up and not look at it ever again, but suddenly a touching email from a reader can make you feel enormously guilty for not making a sincere effort. During such anxious times, I force myself to delve on a particular chapter and finish it anyway. It may not be a literary gem but at least it gets the ball rolling and I always have the freedom to come back later and change it. So pushing yourself to write something, rather than doing nothing has always helped me work my way around my block.

Some blogging realities…
The first post that I published on my blog was read by three people; my mother, my husband and a close friend. The trend continued even after I published by 10th, 20th and even my 50th post. But I kept going because I had absolutely no expectations when I started, and continued with the same frame of mind. It takes almost a year to get a faithful following for your blog which is only possible only you blog consistently. In my opinion, consistently blogging means blogging at least once a week to keep the interest alive. There are zillions of wonderful blogs out there which are just as fantastic as yours and it becomes supremely important to differentiate yours in some way. I strongly think that one’s writing style is the most effective way to differentiate yourself from the rest and apart from that, being disciplined about maintaining your blog, and making it as user-friendly as possible would most definitely help. Blogging ensures that you connect with all kinds of people and gain all sorts of insight, and helps in improving upon your current skill sets, but at times you will meet some trolls who will try to put you down so it is important to take it in your stride and not let that affect you.

I had the most fabulous time writing my novel on my blog and I highly recommend it to first time authors because this is a really great way to test waters and improve. I plan to continue blogging and writing more stories on my blog, but blogging is just a start; one day I intend to see my work as a hardcover book on the book shelves, which would be a dream come true!