February 8, 2016
For the past few years, I’ve been writing my novel with a lot of support, but not much guidance. I’ve gotten as much as I can from creative writing courses and how-to books for the time being. I’m looking forward to benefiting from my mentor’s experience and perspective to help me improve my story, as well as my writing.
Four years ago, I was so bored of legal writing I signed up for a creative writing course at U of T. I started the course in January and came out with a weak first chapter and a blurry concept for a main character. I sent the chapter around to my friends, got some feedback, and started editing it. The next year, it was selected as a finalist in a writing contest, and I convinced myself to turn it into a novel while taking more courses at U of T.
After I wrote my first couple chapters, I sat down and did quite a bit of legwork to figure out my characters and create a story outline. I learned the value of structuring my novel early on. I wouldn’t know how to edit 70,000 words without having already mapped out plot points and character development. I also keep a notebook around for when I need to jot down thoughts, whether it’s a non-cliché way to describe monsoon rain (I’m always looking for those), or a brilliant solution on how to tie up loose ends in my story (looking for that, too.)
My main character, Rakhi, is preoccupied with deep guilt and shame for something she did during her childhood that had dire consequences for her best friend. It’s easier for her to get through her adult life by willfully avoiding social interactions even when opportunities arise. The story is set in Mumbai, a city of cramped living quarters and crowded public spaces, which tends to underscore her solitude.
If I could choose any author to write a book about me, it would be Junot Diaz.
It’s tempting to wish for things like financial freedom or no distractions, but I’m satisfied with my own writing life. If I had everything I ever wanted, I’d still find something to complain about. For me, writing isn’t about the ease with which stories are formed, or whether readers love every paragraph you write. It’s about feeling so compelled to write, that you do it because you have no other choice.
In ten years I’ll still be writing, and that will be the highlight. Maybe I’ll even have a few published novels under my belt. Having people reject my work will likely be the lowest point, but I’ll try my best to be ready for it.