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Monday, May 22, 2006

10 cynical rules to write a book

Ever wondered how people often dislike listening about other peoples’ detailed stories about their lives, but continue make bestsellers out of similar written accounts otherwise known as biographies?

I was watching the sitcom Friends the other day, in which Joey invites everyone to a one woman play called “why don’t you love me-the story of a women’s life”, which set me thinking about one person plays, then about plays about self. Which is quite similar to autobiographies and biographies. So when Chandler was talking about the play which only he landed up watching as nobody else showed up for, he mentioned it quite fondly to Monica and said he loved the play, and wanted to know about Monica’s first period. She was quite freaked out at this. In another scene, Phoebie identifies with Chandler’s description of the show.

The point I’m trying to make here is that nobody would be interested in knowing about details of anyone’s’ lives, at least to everyone’s’; don’t we often hear people complaining of others who just don’t end their sob stories? Well just make a play or a book or a seemingly glamorous piece of written form of art, and it sells like hot cakes!!!

This puts things in a new perspective. Is literature such a strong form of art that it can glorify otherwise absolute crap to something so interesting to make topics of discussion at book clubs around the world?

A little part of my mind says I might be missing the point here, being so pretentiously exited about writing this column that I didn’t actually think this through. Isn’t it that biographies and autobiographies that are in demand are only those of famous or successful or rich people? I mean, who would want a biography of a common man who works 14 hours a day, has never taken a day off except Sundays which he likes to spend sleeping or relaxing. But then if we extend this discussion to include stories and novels and plays as well, what would the scenario be like? I am currently reading a book by Alex Hailey, in which he describes the last 9 generations of his family, starting at a village in Africa to slave trafficking on to American soil. The cover says it’s a bestseller, and I too bought it with much enthusiasm, which I think is the only factor today which keeps me reading it, but how interested are we in lives of villagers and slaves in actual life? Yes it stirs a few strings of sympathy in our hearts, but really, how much time will an average person in today’s life spend in pondering over such topics? Just convert it into a book and Voila!! Its art, so big in demand that it’s 1 million books in print. With all due respect to Alex Hailey and his book Roots, which I vouch for is quite a piece of art, the point I am trying to make still remains, that written word has the strength to turn irrelevance into relevance. This means,


Rule # 01: It’s not just what you tell; it’s also how you tell that makes your book sell. The art of telling is what makes people listen.

I think I reached to this point of discussion because I subconsciously wanted to. I consider myself a budding writer who wants to write a famous book someday, which can be remembered long after I’m gone. I dream to join the list of great authors of all times, but I’ve always put off writing it because I haven’t found something moving enough to write about. I’ve read many books in my life, but only a shelf-full of them have given me something to chew on and made a change of an affect, however insignificant, in my life. This brings us to

Rule # 02: focussing on what the reader gathers out of your book rather that what you want to tell will help with the sales.
and

Rule # 03: With the art of how to tell, if you also have something to tell, now that’s something.

You might ask, how can I be unqualified and still be pretentious enough to frame these rules of writing a book? Have I ever written a book let alone a bestseller? Have I written ANYTHING that’s ever been published?

I would (trying to sound unpretentious, but at the risk of sounding stubborn bordering on arrogant) answer that by saying I am just trying to learn from the mistakes of other writers and authors, in a way, I may not be a good writer, but I most certainly am an intelligent reader with a sound opinion! So, that makes me somewhat of a (self-proclaimed) critic!! Come to think of it, isn’t this pointing to..

Rule # 04: keep the critics in mind, think what they might complain and be a pain in the a** about. (Profanity, for example!)

But its not just critics who read your book. There is a group of actual intelligent readers who may not like your book. Now the trouble here is, the actuelly intelligent people keep their opinion to themselves, don’t brag about their intelligence and discredit your book. The fact is they can be very good critics, but choose not to, as they are intelligent enough to mind their own business. Unfair, how do we writers know how close, deviated to or bang-on is our idea on which we hope to write that perfect book?

Rule # 05: criticism that shouts is important, criticism that drops subtle hints, more so!

“If intelligent man disapproves, its bad; if a fool applauds, its worse!”

Irrelevance is the word that comes to mind. (no, not by the contents of this column, shut up!) readers have known to omit reading paragraphs from books that don’t really manage to hold their attention, and that keeps a book from being perfect!
Rule 06: sounding intelligent is not important, what you write should actuelly BE intelligent.
Many of the recent commendable novels and works of art have included or inspired by current issues, political, geographical,

next ones are

Rule #07 Be informed

and

Rule #08 be original

Use all your knowledge of figures of speech you learnt in school, similies, metaphors, even the weird sounding transferred epithet! Just pour everything to blend that perfect juice!! (see how I do it?)

Rule#09: be witty, funny, a little light-hearted fun never harmed anyone (or any book!!)

Not really rocket science!!


Shri Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s “Madhushala” doesn’t need any introductions. It’s a true example or resurrection and determination, connecting with one’s soul, read the subconscious thoughts and deliver it on paper in a manner legendry! It will be remembered and will inspire the likes of me for the next many generations without the dust of time diminishing its sheen.
I respect Vikram Seth, to a degree unsurpassed! A recent interview I read of him on the launch of his latest book told me how simple he is, and just writes from the heart. Reading his creations enchant one with the purity of his soul!
These two examples are of great writers tell us they don’t follow any rules, just their hearts. So,


Rule # 10: Write from the heart, without giving a thought to any rule. Be true to yourself in your writing, and the world will connect to it as sure as you are a human.
Write what you actually feel, without paying heed to this or any other worthless rule-book. That’s when you will present a work of art and wouldn’t that be something!!

Quite amusing, but also mighty true!!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous18:16

    sir, you've done a good job with the rules for writing a book.
    this in response of your first statement - "ever wondered......". they say wise men learn from their own experiences, but wiser men learn from others' experiences. doesnt it gives us a strategy to live today- why pay when when you can learn at the cost of others ha!!
    megha
    (budhiam@abs.amity.edu)

    ReplyDelete