Join me for dinner, Vikram Seth?

Remember that quiz, usually featured in popular magazines – who would you like to take out for dinner? There’s usually a set of four options, and the one you choose shows something of your personality.

Well, this is no quiz. There are, of course, many writers I’d like to take out for dinner – and many I wouldn’t too. No, not William Shakespeare. His puns and double entendres would perhaps be beyond me. So too Arundhati Roy, possibly because I think, despite being a brilliant writer, she’s so depressing.

No, the writer I’d like to take out should be fun, have a sense of humour, and also be famous. An added bonus would be if he understood my culture, and was from the subcontinent. And Vikram Seth fits the bill.

The Inimitable Vikram Seth

Come to think of it, why are all the famous Indian writers of international repute so darned serious and gloomy? Think of Arundhati Roy, Rohinton Mistry, Jhumpa Lahiri, Amitav Ghosh, Salman Rushdie… they’re all soooo serious (although Rushdie can be very funny too). But that’s just what I love about Vikram Seth- he’s both serious and funny, and this was borne out in his well-attended talk at the Sharjah Book festival a month or two ago.

Vikram would be my perfect choice as a dinner partner. First, he speaks a beautiful public-school English (he was educated at the Doon school) and is of my generation – perhaps a few years older, but still, someone who I can relate to. He gave many wonderful tips on writing a novel. The best one was, in his own words: “You have to be very very very very lazy to write a novel.” This perhaps contradicts received wisdom, but he goes on to explain that there’s a lot of thinking involved during the writing, and for hours and hours, maybe days together, he’d be lying around staring into space and just thinking.

Then there is the point of research – painstaking research. Vikram goes to the nitty-gritty, and no matter what kind of character he’s writing about, whether they are eighty-year-old grandmoms or teen girls, he does his research. And the best part of this is that, it never appears as stuffy ‘research’ in his books, but blends in with the story, setting, and theme.

So Vikram Seth, if you’re reading this, next time you’re around here in this part of the world, (i.e. Dubai), let me know…

And yes, I’m still waiting for A Suitable Girl.

Minnie’s Page(s) – one lonesome woman’s attempts at writing that magnum opus

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Hello! This is Minnie Karsan, a pseudonym I am using to hide my real identity. I want to be known by my pseudonym as I – ahem- am writing a novel . And that novel is about the great, glittery city, Dubai, and the folks who live here. And it’s full of laffs. So you see why I want to use a pen name, just in case someone decides to sue me. Not that my book is about any particular individual. Still – I have to be careful!

 

I’m going to share with you my experiences as a writer, all the trials and tribulations we of the writing fraternity go through. So here I go….

                                                                     Editors or Creditors?!!

'Can you redo this manuscript, John, and make it less stupid?'
‘Can you redo this manuscript, John, and make it less stupid?’

Editors! They are a breed apart, and they can make you or break you. It’s so important to choose the right editor for your book, before you send it off to agents and publishers. And herein lies the rub!

Now, let me confess- my book has gone to three editors. The first time, it was a totally wrong person. She did not stick to her commitment and returned it to me after four months-  after, of course, I’d paid her money upfront. And there were just a few paras telling me in nice words how awful my novel was. At least, that’s the feeling I got.

Anyway, I worked on the it and made changes as she had suggested, and sent it along to another editor, this time from a well-known agency based in the UK. The feedback was better, but obviously my book was still not up to the mark.

I then sat down at my desk once more, despairing at my ever-expanding bottom, and got down to it for the nth time. I decided to change everything about my book, write it in the first person and make it funny. My protagonist would not be sad and serious but airy-headed and fun. I used some of the same details as in my original attempt, but literally infused it with humour. I’ve finally got it- or at least I think I have! I’ve now sent it off to yet another editor, and am waiting for her response. And this time, I was careful about who I chose.

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How to choose an editor? Now there are editors, and there are editors. The main mistake I’d made (the first time) was not sending it to an editor who liked my genre (women’s fiction.) The second time, I didn’t have a choice as the agency chose the editor for me- and she was someone who wrote erotic fiction!

Now, my advice to you is don’t rush it when finding an editor. Ask a few hard questions. See what books she or he has helped an author publish. (Editors usually boast about this on their page.) If the books have been accepted by a traditional publisher, that’s a big check mark. But if all the books are self-published, I’d cast my net again.

I’ve been told to send my book to those editors who’ve been editing my favorite author’s books, books similar to mine. But that’s easier said than done. Very few authors give out the names of their editors, although you just might be lucky if you skin the acknowledgements page.

And one last word. Some editors just do not get back to you. This I experienced on more than one occasion. And I automatically thought my book was so poorly written that it did not even merit a response! Well, all I can say is, have faith in yourself and your writing. You are paying big bucks, the little nest that you’ve saved up to spend on yourself, and if an editor does not respond, it just reflects badly on his or her professionalism.

Let me get back my edited novel, and I’ll share the comments with you- warts n all! Maybe I have another big rewrite? Maybe I should abandon this work altogether and start something afresh? Dear writers, like it or not, I’m dragging you along on this journey!

I’d love to hear your comments about your editorial woes (or commendations).

Until next time…..

Minnie

(Cartoons and images from Cartoonstock)