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You’re a writer who wants to make a career of your passion. Even if you can turn a phrase and weave a story wonderfully, getting published is a whole different ballgame.
“Writing for me is like breathing. I can’t stop doing it even if I try.” ~ Meghna Pant, How To Get Published In India, Pg. 296.
When I looked at the back cover of How to get Published in India, and it claimed to be the “first-of-its kind guide on how to write, publish, and sell”, I knew I had to read it. Being an Indian writer who aspires to make a career out of writing, I approached this book with a lot of hope, expecting it to answer my questions about the Indian publishing industry.
Once I looked into the ‘Contents’ section, the first thing I wanted to read was the epilogue where Meghna talks about her own writing journey. As I began reading it, I felt as if I’m listening to someone who is relating my own struggles instead of hers. I felt like I knew the author, the only difference between us being she is a renowned writer today, and I’m not. Yes, I know that’s a HUGE difference but the way Meghna writes about her journey gives me hope that the way forward might be challenging but it’s not impossible, especially for people who love writing like the way she mentioned in the line I’d quoted at the beginning of this piece.
She talks about giving up on her social life and other entertainments to pursue writing. I too have done the same thing. She talks about how she went on writing despite being hurt by her laptop and splitting open her upper lip. She only stopped once her t-shirt got bloody! Well, I might not have gone that far but I feel terribly guilty whenever I’m not doing something related to writing.
I try to devote at least six to eight hours every day to reading and writing. Last year, I even gave up on my ten year long corporate career to pursue a literary career. Most people think I’m crazy and impractical, but I’ve always been someone who believes in listening to her inner voice rather than the clamour of the outside world. Even though I’ve been academically gifted enough to earn two post-graduate degrees from some of the most prominent institutions of India, I’d never been satisfied with the corporate life whether it was consulting, business analysis, market research, or equity analysis. When I finally discovered that my true calling, the only thing that truly sets my soul on fire, is Writing, I knew I had to give it my all.
So far, I’ve been published in several print and online anthologies, I’ve received a cash prize of INR 10,000 from a contest organized by Rupa Publications, Facebook, and Kolkata Bloggers. My articles and stories on platforms such as Women’s Web have won several awards.
But I knew my heart longed for more. Hence, 10 months ago, I enrolled into a three-year creative writing MFA program at Writer’s Village University. Three months back, I deactivated Facebook and I’m yet to go back. My life currently comprises studying for my course, reading and writing extensively, working out, and spending time with my husband and four pets.
What I liked most about Meghna’s book is that she gives hope to someone like me. She candidly talks about the realities of Indian publishing (which, if you aren’t already aware, aren’t exactly rosy) but she also assures me that if I’m willing to give it my all and use the right avenues, I’ve got a fair shot at success.
Meghna begins the book by talking about the nitty-gritties of the writing process. This book offered me some solid advice on persistence, how to develop plots, characters, dialogues, the concept of “showing versus telling” and so on. If you’re a beginning writer just embarking on your writing journey, these short chapters might steer you in the right direction before you pick up books which talk about the writing process in detail. I particularly found the chapters on how to format one’s manuscript, how to structure the book, and how to deal with those annoying writer’s blocks to be extremely helpful.
Talking about your work
However, the part that made me treasure this book is where she talks about the publishing and the marketing aspects. Now, this was where I needed some solid advice from a veteran, and I didn’t know where to go for it. This book gives a lot of tips about publishing, about the right ways to market your book without annoying people on social media by spamming their walls and making them block your posts.
Meghna draws upon her own experience of publishing to inspire and teach about the process of approaching publishers and agents. I really appreciated the fact that she’d even gone so far as to provide sample templates of the letters we might need to write for different genres of books to the publishing houses or to literary agents.
Importance of writing well, first
I don’t know Meghna, but the biggest reason why she gained my trust and respect is that she keeps emphasizing on the importance of putting our best work out before taking care of the other aspects.
This is something that I truly believe in and I felt as if Meghna too is a firm believer of this mantra.
Reasons for the bleak realities of Indian publishing
Even while discussing about the bleak realities of Indian publishing and the deterioration in the quality of writing, she digs further into the reasons behind these trends and how each of us as an artist has the capability to change this in our favour.This results in an extremely hopeful tone throughout the book.
Not a one-size-fits-all solution
One of the things that I really liked is that Meghna doesn’t give a one- size fits all kind of advice. Hence, as a writer who is more interested in literary fiction, I got to know of channels through which I can get my works published and gain a solid resume. She talks about the importance of being published in prominent literary magazines. She talks about the various national and international short story prizes, and how winning them might add a lot of weight to a literary writer’s resume.
Meghna has taken the troubles of offering different advices to writers of different genres. She goes into the details of different kinds of writing, such as short stories, poetries, non-fiction, and blogs and the different routes to reach the readers for the given medium. She listed the names of the popular publishing houses and provided email addresses of literary agents and the kind of work that they’re looking for.
And finally, some inspiration to read
The final section of the book offers some solid advice and inspiration. This features the essays from various writers, publishers, literary agents and other people connected to the writing industry. Each of these essays are about two pages long, but those offer some solid advice to emerging writers. Starting from eminent authors like Meena Kandasamy, Jeffrey Archer, Shobhaa De, to literary agents like Kanishka Gupta and Mita Kapur, these pages are studded with some inspiring and no-nonsense tips about the different areas of writing and publishing. This section is really refreshing and each of the essays are so brief that I could read a few of them with my morning tea and feel charged for the rest of the day.
If you’re an Indian author who:
Then, YES! This is a book you must keep handy. Even though each of the topics are addressed in brief, these give you a fair idea about your next step forward. The short chapters also make the reading interesting and keep you engaged.
I am grateful to Meghna for writing this book that feels like a true friend, who takes my hand and guides me on my way forward in this terrifying yet exhilarating journey of writing and publishing.
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