Diptakirti Chaudhuri is the author of Cricket! All You Wanted to Know About The World Cup and Kitnay Aadmi Thay. After an interview with IndiaBookStore last month (in case you missed it, catch it in the Authors Exclusive at Bookish), Diptakirti graciously agreed to share with our readers as to what went into scripting those two great books of his while hanging onto his day job! Read on as to what the "Salesman by day, writer by night" has to say…
When I was egged on by one friend and encouraged by another to write a book on Bollywood, I had no clue on how I would go about doing it. After I wrote a synopsis and a chapter summary, I was a little heartbroken to find out elves did not crawl out of the woodworks at night and write the damn book. I then had to open my laptop every night and hammer away on the keyboard to get the 70,000 words in place that would hopefully make me famous!
Since the subject was really close to my heart (and indeed, that was why I started writing in the first place), I quite enjoyed this part of the day. In fact, I loved it enough to unconsciously put it – salesman by day, writer by night – first in my Twitter bio and then started using it in
other introductions as well.
“If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison.
This quote (which I found much after I had finished writing the book) pretty much explains why I started burning the midnight oil. Bollywood trivia is something I have grown up on and there are hardly any books on the subject, which is like a rollicking ocean of fun and madness. Quite appropriately, there are many blogs and discussion forums dedicated to the subject but very little has gone between two covers of a paperback. So, that’s what my book was – the book I was dying to read. And that was a big motivation for me to put an effort to complete it.
However, to ensure that this book doesn’t go the same way as most of my New Year resolutions, I decided to make a few rules. And I stuck to these religiously.
1. I had a daily target – 500 words.
I did not go to sleep without writing 500 words in the night. After putting my son and daughter to bed, after watching a bit of TV, after chatting with my wife about new restaurants to be checked out, after knocking off a couple of official mails, I wrote my quota for the day. Some days, I flowed well and ended up writing a lot more. But I never missed this target. (Okay, I packed up after 300 words on some days but that was rare.) This meant about 150 days of writing before I had my first draft ready and I think my salesman instinct of gunning after a target ensured I could pull it off.
2. Conversely, I never wrote in office. Never, ever.
It is very easy to get ‘inspiration’ during the work day and churn out a page or two. And if that got out of hand, I may not have retained the day part of my bio! I carried a square green diary all through the writing period in which I jotted down notes to remember my inspiration. I often punched in the notes on my Blackberry as well and mailed them to me. But that was the maximum extent of liberty I took regarding the book during office hours. (This actually helped me dive in to the writing part at the end of the day.)
Bottomline: it is important to respect your day job. Till your college love story woos readers from Meerut to Madurai, you have to.
3. Write. Read. Re-write. Re-read. Repeat.
There is no end to the amount of research and proof-reading you can put into a book. Mine was rooted in facts but any book rises a few notches when you get the setting, chronology and characters absolutely real (unless you are writing about a School of Wizardry or some such arcane thing, which has no market).
The number of typos I discovered before, during and after the editing process wasn’t funny. Add to that inconsistencies in name (Devgan in page 20, Devgn in page 120), form (40 in numerals on page 40, forty in words on page 140) and tense (description of event in past tense on page 60, description in present tense on page 160) and you have a copy-editing nightmare. An editor is supposed to weed these out but a basic dusting (if not a full-fledged spring cleaning) is highly desired to get our book accepted in the first place.
4. Get a brutal critic.
Journalists and copywriters have a big advantage when they write because they have some a reasonable idea of popular tastes and a better grounding in the craft of writing. If you are writing part-time, one of the biggest favours you can do yourself is to get a critic who can evaluate the book as a reader. He has to have an appreciation of the topic but preferably not a crazy fan. He should ideally be an avid reader with a sense of good writing. And most importantly, he should be brutally honest. The value such a critic could bring to the manuscript can only be measured in hundreds of books sold. Find one.
5. Make the book a day job for a few days after the launch.
A big part of putting out a book in the current times is the marketing and distribution.
I feel this is one area where I couldn’t devote time due to my day job. A new author’s book is not taken too willingly by the trade and in several bookshops, I found copies of my book in the store-room which had not been displayed in the shelves. On the other hand, bookstores are quite excited to have authors over and discuss ways to promote a book. If I had taken some time off and did rounds of bookstores during the launch days, it would have resulted into much better display (and hopefully, sales) of the book. This was a part of the job that required me to be a salesman during the day – oh, the irony – and I messed it up!
So, those were – according to me – some of the Things To Remember if you are a first time author trying to juggle a day job with writing a book.
And yes, dedicate the book to your wife/partner/housemate. You have no idea how bravely they suffered the clack-clacking of the keyboard while you thought you were silently at work.
You can connect with the author on twitter and on his blog Calcutta Chromosome which doubles up as one of the most exhaustive collection of Bollywood trivia at one place.