What It’s Really Like to Write a Book
Many people dream of writing a book. It sounds rather glamorous. Or, if someone has an interesting life story, they’re commonly told, “You should write a book.” It was a little over two years ago that I was lying in bed at my parents’ house, also pondering over whether I should write my book. I’d received offers from two publishers, but did I really have the courage to go ahead with it?
Writing a book, especially one of a personal nature, is actually one of the most confronting things you can do. It does feel good to be writing and telling your story, but then comes the realization that it will be out there for the world to read (and critique)!
Being blessed with not having to go down the difficult road of rejection in hunting for a publisher convinced me that writing a book was obviously something I was destined to do. And, that’s what kept me going, through all the moments of fear and insanity. That, plus meditation and a very valuable book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
“Are you paralyzed by fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it. Resistance is experienced as fear…the more fear we feel, the more certain we can be that the calling is important to us and to the growth of our soul.” — The War of Art.
One of the biggest challenges when writing a book is how to keep people interested for 300 odd pages. When it’s a book about yourself and your life, it becomes even more difficult. How much of yourself do you reveal? How do you present yourself? How do you make sure you’re not sounding self absorbed? And, do you have the nerve to show yourself in a less than favourable light sometimes?
I write honestly, openly, and sometimes critically on a wide range of topics. Hence, it would be lacking of me as a writer if I couldn’t do the same thing about myself and my own life. I also wanted to write a book that may help inspire people. To do that it’s necessary to be completely open.
“Sharing the trials and turbulence of the deepest moments of our lives with others helps build a healing web for all”. — Dr Gulrukh Bala, Mumbai.
Ultimately, there comes a time in all our lives when we meet disaster, sadness, loss, or regret. A time when our lives change forever. But it’s what we learn from it, and how we move on that’s the most important thing. I wanted to convey that message, and show what is possible when you have faith and take a chance.
It took me six months of consistent daily writing to complete the manuscript for my publisher. I disciplined myself to sit at my desk for long hours, while my husband brought me food. The book consumed my life. After accepting the manuscript, my publisher appointed an editor who ruthlessly went through it and refined it.
When the postman delivered a box of my books to my door in Mumbai a few weeks ago, sent to me by my publisher, I looked at it in a daze. I stuck my hand in and pulled out a congratulatory note from my publisher, saying that I’d been a “dream author” to work with and wishing me success. It was a surreal moment. It became even more surreal when I flicked through the pages of one of the books. The familiar fresh book smell wafted out, the smell that brings anticipation of the story that’s contained within. But I already knew the contents of this book. It was my book. Seriously? How did it happen? It was so hard to believe.
The surreal moments continued yesterday when my father returned from our local bookstore. He’d found my book on display in the New Releases section and taken a photo. Then, a family friend dropped by with a copy that she’d bought for me to sign.
However, the journey of book writing doesn’t end with the publication of the book. It has to be followed up with publicity and promotion. For me, an introvert, this was laden with as much anxiety as writing the book.
It’s during the publicity and promotion stage that the publisher really makes a difference. Small publishers will require authors to do their own promotion. Large publishers will handle the promotion for their authors. I was fortunate to have a large Australian publisher with a branch in India, who set up launches, readings, interviews, and appearances for me in both countries.
The downside of having a large publisher is that I had to relinquish much control over my book. I didn’t get to choose the book’s title, or the cover. And, I did envisage something different for both. The publisher bases their decision on what they believe will sell best though. The publisher, with their expert experience, is probably right too.