28 August 2010

Six Years And Five Takes

It was horribly depressing.

Remember the time in school when you watched your classmates get all the attention from the teacher, while you languished in the back benches? Remember the jealousy and envy you felt?

I looked back at the web page on my mobile browser. I read those words again.

Azhan Ahsan, 21 years old, is one of the youngest authors around...

“Listen, I haven’t told anyone yet, so keep this to yourself,” I had said, giving the customary disclaimer any 13 year old would give when he’s confiding a secret with a dear friend. Ejaz nodded and listened in anticipation.

“I’m trying to complete my novel soon, and maybe using the help of _______ Uncle, get it published.” It was a solemn secret. One that had been planned, edited and proof read within the pages of my mind. I could picturize all of it : surprised friends, admiring parents, curious strangers, all yearning to read the novel written by a 13 year old. Perhaps one of the youngest authors in India!

“Actually, I’m hoping,” I said later, in a gruffer, more mature voice, “to finish this story I’m writing. Then maybe I’ll get a publisher for it.” I smiled with eager anticipation as Ejas nodded his head quietly. With all the dreams of a 14 year old, I continued walking...

“Wow, did you actually type all of this?” he said as he felt the thickness of my finished manuscript. “Ofcourse,” I said in that light, nonchalant tone.

“Dude, you should get this published man! It’ll be hot!”

I nodded my head, the glint in my eyes almost betraying the thoughts that ran through my mind. The Board Exams were mere months away. Perhaps after that, the hunt for a publisher...

On October 12th, 2008, a comment left on this blog trailed off with the words: Best of luck for your novel.

About seven months after that, another comment on Facebook was more flattering: This should definitely be a novel!

And now, the web page I’d read served as a painful reminder. For the past six years I’ve dreamed of being a published author. Before you sympathise though, let me add that I’ve done as much to realise my dream, as I have to reduce my weight. Occasional jogging and guilty pangs after a heavy dinner. Not to forget the furious six push ups once every four months.

But what I’ve lost in terms of iron will and strict discipline, I have more than made up for with ideals, dreams and ambition. Isn’t that the worst way to fail?

Over the course of six years, I have tried to write about five novels. The first one survived twelve chapters. The second was luckier, I actually completed it. If only one other person could find it interesting as well. Third time’s the charm right? Well, almost. But as one of the three editors said, ‘Write something that’s closer to your heart, and best of luck.’

So I wrote about my life, in a semi autobiography. My first reader was kind enough to read till the 30th page. Anymore than that, would be testing the boundaries of our friendship.

Spurned, I went the opposite way. I wrote about kidnappers. Well, at least the first 8 chapters. Why didn’t I continue? If I knew the answer to that question, I’d probably be published by now, don’t ya think?

I cannot speak for other aspiring authors, but the sight of successful authors leave me with a deep sense of despair. The green eyed monster is appointed captain of the ship, and I’m left with the same emotion that you’d feel when the girl you love flirts with someone else.

Just when I was about to push the thought of Azhan Ahsan away, Google decided to ruin my mood further. You haven’t heard about Anshuman Mohan yet?, it seemed to ask.

Anshuman Mohan, a 15 year old author of ‘Potato Chips’, conceived the novel when he was 13.

Sometimes you’re so blinded by a dream, that you forget what your actual cause was. It was true that I’d dreamed of being an author at the age of 13. But a few months before that, I had also written a short story. Why?

It was so long ago that I’ve almost lost the feeling. The feeling I had when an idea seized me, forcing me to think about it day and night. It forced a boy who’d never slept less than five hours, to stay up all night, just to fill six small pages with a story. I can remember the rush I felt when I concluded it. It wasn’t published. It wasn’t reviewed. It hadn’t even received three likes yet. But I felt ecstatic.

My dream to become a published author grew out of the desire to have my story heard. To share my ideas. I wanted you to read the same story that I’d built up in my head, by piecing together ideas until it became a work of art. And somehow, pure laziness and lack of focus turned me into a bitter, irritated fellow who spent more time criticising than writing.

So after six years and five takes, I’m yet again going to attempt to write a complete novel. But this time, I’ll do it the same way I wrote my first short story. It doesn’t matter if I fail at first. It doesn’t matter if more editors send me back rejection letters. What matters is that I’ll have written my novel.

I once read that an Indian author was in a bar in Hong Kong, downing tequila shot after tequila shot, trying to come to grips with the fact that his novel had been rejected for the ninth time. The tenth time proved lucky. Perhaps you’ve read his novel? Five Point Someone?

P.S. : I’ve mentioned the names of two upcoming authors, Azhan Ahsan (Love, Lust and Life) and Anshuman Mohan (Potato Chips) because – though envious at first of their achievement - I know how much effort they must’ve put in to get their book published. If you get a chance, do read their books.  

To receive the Latest Posts in your Inbox, Enter your email address below:


  1. As long as you become a published author, it's ok, no?

    Or was becoming one at 13 the most and the only thing that mattered?

  2. What mattered most was writing a novel. But I had dreamed about writing one since I was 13. It was like a childish dream :D And yes, as long as I do become a published author, its okay!

  3. finally! :D
    so how much done of it? i call first draft!:P
    6th times a charm buddy! take my word!
    and my blessings!:P

  4. dude its ok man i hav finishd i dunno countless tories...nt more than u....but i m still strtin my novel...finishd 3 chapters....but then i m too lazy TO TYPE.....so i guess ur way better off than me coz at least u typed all this...!!!!

  5. keep dreaming dude....without dream u cant achieve....I am dreaming too....it will come true once I know..u will also have to think this way..best of luck..

  6. Ah!
    This post just makes me feel that you're my best friend in life. Almost each and every line echoes with me, the pain of not completing a book. I feel we're gonna meet sometime really soon. In Chennai maybe! I am sure of one thing, you WILL get your book published and it WILL be a big hit. As many established authors say, "Don't lose hope", that's what I've also have to say, because I too haven't lost hope and still writing after a aborted attempt on my first novel which survived five chapters. I've started the next one, which I'm still working on and I've finished 11 chapters. Someday I want to see both of them published. But at this point you are my senior as you've already sent your books to editors! A day will come where we'll become authors. It will definitely come.

    I hope we both compete for the Man booker ;)


  7. Ah!, the thoughts of an aspiring author. I seem to hear them more and more frequently now-a-days. And quite some of them... okay, many of them...okay okay! most of them come from my own head...

    Its very weird, but someone who used to only read books (and do that with great vigour, mind you) and never wrote even an English composition properly suddenly decided to write a novel! That someone of course, was me... And why did this sudden change occur? because that someone read someone else's stories and thought, "Hey, if he can do it, why not me??"

    Anyway, forget about my journey. One thing I wanted to say was that whenever you write something and feel it is good enough, show it to the world! Facebook, your blog, everywhere. And hen you get positive comments (even though they are lukewarm sometimes), you feel like writing more. I'm sure that many professionals - writers, authors, artists... feel motivated when their work is appreciated. So go on, get appreciated! :D

    A Thought or Three... My blog

  8. Forgot to say something...

    Best of Luck! You will definitely succeed this time. I know because I've read your stories and believe me, they're pretty good! :D Keep up the good work!

  9. You are still young, so no worry there...

    Also, one can always look at self publishing as an option...if traditional publishers aren't very encouraging.

    I would suggest reading blogs of Literary Agents and working on one's drafts...

    Rachael Gardner, The Writing Life, Copyblogger are all very good sources...

  10. i saw your post today, and only hoped i had seen it earlier.
    you write lovely. anshuman mohan wrote beautifully too, but perhaps he was lucky to have a mom like me, who sat through his entire book, whispering again and again in his ears.. 'hey this piece is the best... just carry on'

  11. I think you write very well...a good command of the language and an ability to express thoughts and feelings in a progressive manner that holds the readers attention...I feel this is not the end of the road for you...Best of luck for a publisher to notice you!

  12. @Rejin: I think I'll be done by November at the most! Yes, you'll get the first draft...along with many other people :P

    And true man...6th time is a charm!

    @Anonymous: Thank you. But I wonder who you are...

    @Abhilash: Thanks man, and best of luck to you too!

    @Pawan: I knew you would understand this post well! Yup, Man Booker it is! :D

    @Vivek: Glad to know your actively blogging. I'll read it soon. And will let you know what I think...

    @All Talk And No Action: I know, I've been meaning to do all of those things. Was just lazy, that's all! Thanks for the advice.

    @Sheetal: Ma'am your comment left me in doubt. Firstly, I assumed you are Anshuman's mother. Right? If so, you must be one proud mother. Congrats! And secondly, how did you find this post? I had wanted Anshuman to read it, but didnt know where to spread the link.

    @Nalini: Thank you for your encouraging words, Ma'am. It helps a lot when I'm feeling low and worried about my writing.

  13. Anshuman just ruined my day.

  14. yes, i am Anshuman's mother. and am i am indeed proud to be so. Anshuman has read your article. i have emailed it to several of my friends too. It feels that he has already achieved the MANBOOKER, as people as intelligent as you are acknowledging him. But there is a suggestion. you write well and have style. its not that difficult. perhaps we could help you deliver your script. be free to communicate. we could be friends.

  15. I'm quite late in replying to this, but - wow, I feel the same way in so many ways. It was almost like you were reading my mind when you wrote this one. :)

    And dude, I don't think you should worry. If you think five is bad, I've started about 12, out which all but 2 are not salvageable. And as someone who finished one book (though a not so good one) I can only give you two pieces of advice:

    1) Get someone uncritical (I got mom) to read the book as you're writing...and to keep telling you that they're waiting for the next chapter...definitely worked for me.
    2)Don't edit while you're writing. It stalls you down. Just write. :)

  16. I see a lot of fellow aspiring Authors have replied here. Being one myself... well, cheers!

    Musthafa, I'm not going to flatter you. You have enough people to do that. As a friend, I would love to see you achieve your dream(s), even if I have to criticize all your works until you get what you need. But I have always enjoyed your plots. And I look forward to buying your first novel to the last. And I shall read all of them. I'm sure you'll do so well that even someone so allergic to reading shall read your novels again and again(as I had once done for the Harry Potter series until J.K.R. broke my heart with the last 3).

    And I wish you the best of luck. I don't know how I could support you, but I guess I'd like you to know that your every article inspires me. Psychologically. So drown yourself in tequila if you must. But keep writing. You have people who'd love to read your work. One day, the entire world shall.Insha'allah!

  17. @Sakhi: Yup, I guess this is what most of us writers feel. And wow, you've written 12 novels? Cool. Have you posted anyone of them online? Would love to read them.

    And yes, great two tips. Instead of mother, I depend upon friends, helps greatly!

    @Zardy: Dude, thanks for the inspirational comment man. Makes me feel like stopping everything else and return to work on my novel. Thanks for that!

  18. you had sent me your summary long time back. you were suppose to revert back with the changes i suggested to you. whats happened. how far have you reached? i hope you haven't given it up. do stay in touch.