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How I wrote my 1st novel
After a masters from IIT Madras, Paramu joined Tata Burroughs in the late seventies and worked there for 15 years. After that, he set up Digital’s Unix Centre in Bangalore in the nineties. He was then the CIO worldwide for ActionAid - a NGO that stands up for marginalised children.
After a full innings in the IT industry, Paramu became an author and published his first book with Penguin.
A reviewer on Amazon commented about his novel, ‘It is a gripping story told in an engaging way. Tremendous amount of effort and research seems to have gone in.’
Here is Paramu’s story to read, if you want to write a book too -
My first novel was a whodunnit, set in Vedic times.
I had been working on it since the late 90s, while I was still in Burroughs. It took a long time.
I figured out what I wanted to write about by simply following my passion. I was interested in things Indian - Sanskrit, Vedic history and Astronomy.
The Vrshakapi hymn from RigVeda particularly caught my attention. I interpreted the hymn as talking about a mighty emperor in conflict with a rebel coalition.
I wanted to explore the drama of daily lives in that Vedic period. A time when the average person spoke Sanskrit. A time, perhaps around 4000 BCE, when Astronomy deciphered the celestial skies well enough to leave hints about the timeline of that era, in a hymn - the Vrshakapi hymn.
I thought of writing a murder mystery set in that Vedic period. I would soar with my imagination. Yet, I would make it real for our readers today, with thorough research. I had thought.
Then there is the matter of how I learned to write better and how the jumble of ideas in my head became an actual book.
First, I researched and explored how people would have lived and interacted in those times. The daily business of living, so different from today, yet so similar because human nature is a constant.
As I wrote and rewrote, I evolved as a writer. I will say to you, ‘If you want to write a book yourself, then Write! Your writing will teach you what you need to learn’.
Back in the Burroughs days, I had finished reading Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. So I wrote in his style. Almost like a documentary.
Somebody said this is not how you write a novel. Make it a conversation instead of description. So I tried that.
I had a desire to show off my knowledge. Astronomy. Sanskrit. My earlier drafts might have been more showing off rather than writing.
My son said, why don’t you just write the story! So I tried that.
This novel was a crucible for both what I wrote and how I wrote. I realised no one can tell you how to write. They can tell you how they wrote. They can urge you to keep writing and to persist.
I kept changing the way the novel was written. Then I stopped making progress.
So one day, I went and re-read the Vrshakapi hymn. My earlier understanding was that the rebellion fails. When I re-read, it seemed that the rebellion succeeded. So I rewrote my novel accordingly.
The usurping Prince became more noble. The King had more flaws.
I realised I was subconsciously following Umberto Eco. His debut novel was a murder mystery set in the 14th century, northern Italy. He had written in first person, so I did too.
First person means the narrator has to be there all the time. So, I made it into a 3rd person narrative. This allowed me to take bigger creative leaps.
If I look around today, I think I will find 4 or 5 versions of the story lying around. It took me 15 years. But by 2010, I was ready to find a publisher.
When I was looking for a publisher, I came across @sharath komaraju. He coaches aspiring writers and, amongst other things; he advised me to find and impress a literary agent.
I edited my novel once again. This is when I got cold feet. ‘Who will read my novel?’, I thought.
@sivakumar subramanyan read the entire book and with his encouragement, I finally sent the book across to a literary agent.
I did not hear from any of them for some time. I thought I was rejected. I was dejected.
Then they replied. They had lots of suggested changes. I made them and sent it back. They came back with more changes. I made those too. They accepted my novel.
I think getting accepted by a good literary agent helped me big time. This agent later told me he had liked the setting in the Vedic period and my research details.
It was time to finally reach the publishers. The literary agent reached out to a few of them.
We got publication offers from Penguin, HarperCollins and Hachette. It still took 2 years to publish because I was a newbie and celebrity authors would jump the publication queue every once in a while.
I have written 3 books after that and 2 more are works in progress.
My advice to authors -
Write around your passion,
Write - a lot. Let the rewriting teach you,
Check out Paramu's blog - https://paramukurumathur.com/category/writing-books/ for more insights and gems, if you want to write.