Literature (2019 | Issue 2)

Download print version


It’s said that we all have a book inside us. It’s just, some of us get down to it, while most shy away. After all, writing involves a lot of perseverance, soul-searching and a solid idea. It can be painful and make us feel extremely vulnerable. Often, starting is the hardest part. What’s Up, Germany? shares tips from famous authors on the process of writing.

First things first: Figure out what you want to say. You need to be clear about why you are writing and who you are writing for. The urge to write has to be really strong, as should be your idea. For Anita Desai, writing is a process of discovering the truth. Remember, the reader is not a critic, but a friend, so be honest. Tell your truth.

Find Your Voice

When it comes to writing you have to be true to yourself. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Thinking about how good other authors are serves no purpose. It could stop you in your tracks. You are an original; there’s no one like you! Celebrate your uniqueness and write with conviction. Don’t let logic get in the way. As Franz Kafka once said, “… don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion”! Vikram Seth recommends sitting for an hour every day without doing anything. Just switch off your phone and mind, and get to know yourself. Priceless advice coming from one of India’s greatest literary talents!

Your Space & Time

To switch off from the external world, you will need a private space of your own. A silent cocoon that allows you to go into yourself. Forget about the various roles you play in the world and daily mundane tasks. Immerse yourself into your story and let your characters come to life. In due course, they will begin to take on a life of their own. And when they do, write, write, write! Günter Grass mentions how wonderful the feeling is when paper characters come alive and start to contradict the author. Cornelia Funke feels sometimes the character on the printed page is more real than the person beside us!

Daily Ritual

Come what may, show up every day. Pick a time of day that suits you. Leo Tolstoy liked to start first thing in the morning when his mind was fresh. But if you’re not a morning person, stay up late like Kafka did. Either way, keep at it. Only practice will make you better. You will face some inner resistance at some point, but don’t stop writing. Don’t worry about whether it’s any good. First drafts usually aren’t! Face that blank page head on. As Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Let it flow. Leave the editing for later. Many writers keep a notebook on them at all times. After all, you never know when inspiration strikes!

Show, Don’t Tell!

This really good tip points the writer towards showing something, rather than stating something. As Mark Twain said, “Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.” Showing paints a picture and triggers a sensory experience. When you’re writing dialogue make sure to say it out loud. Only then will it sound like someone is talking. Keep your readers engaged from the word go. Grab their attention with the first line itself! In The Republic, Plato declared that the beginning is the most important part of any work. So, make every word count. Even your last line needs to have a lasting impact. Now, go ahead and write! All the best!