Writings Tips from Kishwar Desai

Even immensely successful novelists such as writer Kishwar Desai have had to go through initial moments of anxiety, albeit only as a teenager. In these five tips shared with Wordweavers writers, she tells our writers what to expect and how never to give up!

(Writer Kishwar Desai's won the Costa Book Award in 2010 for Best First Novel first novel, Witness the Night. It was also shortlisted for the Author's Club First Novel Award and longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize. Her most recent publication is The Sea Of Innocence. It is available in India and will be available in UK soon.)

Whenever I am asked to give any tips for writing, I am reminded of the way I began. I was just a teenager when my first short story got published in what we used to call ‘JS’ those days. It was the ’Junior Statesman’---and it was the first time that I had anything written outside the usual school magazines and birthday poems. The story got an award---and I was hooked. Then of course, I would routinely send poems, articles to various newspapers and magazines ---all in secret –because I was extremely embarrassed in case I ever received that dreadful ‘rejection slip.’ (Which, as I became more confident and sent articles to mainstream newspapers, I received quite a few of). But the important thing was not to give up.

And so I think my first tip for a writer, any writer---is not to give up, no matter what anyone might say to you, and how much they might try to discourage you. Start wherever you can. If not with books, then start writing short stories, poems, or articles. You must make your own space as a writer, and persist.

The second tip is to set yourself challenges and deadlines. I think most often books don’t get written, because no one gave the author a deadline. It doesn’t matter if you have a publisher or not. If you have a great idea---first write it down. Write that book---and give yourself a date by which you plan to finish it. For my first  book Darlingi: The True Love Story of Nargis and Sunil Dutt, I promised myself  that I would complete it by my birthday in December. It would be my birthday present to myself. It worked.

The third tip is to write about what you know, at least to begin with. Of course people also write fantasies or take on unusual subjects. But try to find a comfort level in it---by researching the subject thoroughly, or thinking about it till you feel comfortable with it. I usually start collecting information on a subject a year or so ahead of actually writing the book---so that I can think about the story more thoroughly and when I sit down to write I am confident. The Simran Singh series, for instance---which deal with different gender-centric issues: female foeticide and infanticide (Witness the Night), renting out of wombs (Origins of Love) and sexual violence and rape (The Sea of Innocence)    --are all research based books. They have been written after extensive reading and interviews.

The fourth tip is to read a lot. Read as much as you can ---because this helps you form ideas and expressions. Be careful, however to create your style of writing—and be very cautious not to copy from anyone. It is best if your own ‘voice’ comes out. But reading makes you understand plots and language better.

And the fifth and final tip is to be prepared for loneliness. I think that while writing is great fun ---and one really enjoys the world one enters into, it is a very,  very lonely space. You have to get up in the morning knowing fully well that you might be spending yet another day indoors, working on your book. Or poem or short story. So try not to get too miserable about (I know a lot of writers really get depressed---so don’t do that). If you are mentally prepared you will end up actually enjoying it. It will still be tough –but not as difficult as you might find it.

So what I usually do is give myself little breaks ---which are not too distracting and which can be dealt with, around the house. I go for a walk, do some shopping close by, watch TV for a little while, perhaps even a film in the evening. I read books, talk to a friend, spend time with family. But I don’t ---when I am writing, go for endless parties, or stay out during the whole day---because that becomes a huge interruption. This means that your social life becomes a big zero---but at the end of it, if the book does well ---it will be worth it!

The writer can be contacted here on her Facebook page.

Twitter: @kishwardesai