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Paving the way for writers

By February 11, 2019No Comments

Source : The New Indian Express

I wrote this book to help thousands of aspiring writers who are struggling to get their manuscripts published.


BENGALURU: Meghna Pant is an award-winning writer who has previously penned books such as One & A Half Wife, The Trouble With Women and Feminist Rani, to name a few. Her debut collection of short stories Happy Birthday was long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Award (2014), while her debut novel One & A Half Wife won the national Muse India Young Writer Award (2013). Her latest book is titled How To Get Published In India and is a guide for all aspiring writers. Excerpts from an interview:

What was your trigger for writing the book How To Get Published In India?

I wrote this book to help thousands of aspiring writers who are struggling to get their manuscripts published. When I started out, I didn’t have a degree in literature or mentors or connections, and I spent years learning how to get published and sell my books. The entire process was intimidating, frustrating and confusing, and I kept hoping that someone would write a book like this! This book was written keeping my struggles in mind so another aspiring writer does not have to struggle.

Have any of your books been inspired by vernacular books?

My books are inspired by life, not other books, but I do find regional language books inspiring when they’re well written.

Do you go back to your old writings? How does it feel to re-read what you had written years back?

I sometimes do read my writings to reconnect with some of my characters, like Amara Malhotra from One & A Half Wife, who I think of as an old friend I haven’t met in a while. Sometimes I read  my stories in Happy Birthday just to see how much my writing has changed over the years.

Have you always seen yourself as a writer?  What has been your inspiration?    

I started writing seriously ten years ago, though at that time it was only short stories. To improve my art I took several writing courses in New York, and after a fair share of rejections my short stories began to be published in reputed US literary magazines. The idea for a full-length novel, One & A Half Wife, came only in 2010, and that’s around the time I also started putting together short stories that would come together in the collection Happy Birthday! The moment I saw One & A Half Wife on the bestseller list in a bookstore in 2012 was the first time I let myself admit that I was a writer. And I’ve not wanted to be anything else since.

What is the process you undergo while writing? 

I face the opposite problem of writer’s block as my head is full of ideas and I have no time to write them all down! I follow a strict regiment. I write 500-1,000 words a day on average. I like to be organised in every aspect of my life, so my house has to be clean, finances have to be in order, health has to be heeded, family and loved ones have to be indulged, and work has to be done.

How difficult or easy is it to get published? Have you had to modify or change the content of any of your books for it to get published?

When I started out I didn’t know that writing is a small part of the process of getting published. The first step is to finish a polished manuscript, which translates into edit, edit and more edit. For instance, I wrote the first draft of One & A Half Wife in two months, but the editing took 10 more months. After I was satisfied that my novel was ready to be sent to publishers, I compiled a submission package for each publisher, as per his or her guidelines, which took months of research, and only then started approaching them. Once my book was picked up, I didn’t have to change any content, but I did have to edit my work.

Who’s your first reader and biggest critic?

My editor Prita Maitra. My biggest critic is myself but I’ve learnt to be kinder to myself over time.

Do you think marketing has played an integral role in the success of your books?  

Not initially. When my first book came out I believed that books had no need of their author and an author must write, not market. I therefore did a few mandatory book readings and the novel did well purely on word-of-mouth.

But today there are too many books, too many authors. The biggest obstacle a new writer will face after finding a suitable publisher is finding a loyal base of readers.  You are also competing for people’s time. You are competing to get that reader off his phone, off Twitter, off Whatsapp, to take out the time to read your book. So, when you’ve invested a few years or months of your life to write your book, develop the patience and persistence to spend a month or two to market your work, so your book finds the right readership base.

With the digitisation of books, have you moved to reading books on screen or do you prefer the old-fashioned books? 

I do a bit of both depending on my convenience. If I’m taking a long trip, I’ll carry my Kindle. If I’m home I almost always read books the “old-fashioned” way.

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