“So? What’s happening with your book?” To Tell or Not to Tell…
“So? What’s happening with your book?” To Tell or Not to Tell
by Anisha Bhatia
Musings from a first time writer…
So. You’ve decided to write that novel. Actually started writing it. And you have a plot and all. And the characters are toeing the line; no sidekick wants to run off tangent and tell their story nudging the main guy out.
But you haven’t told anyone that you are writing a book, right? Only a couple of really close friends because you just had to tell someone! Especially true of little first-time writers like me who have a fair number of got-good-job-make-lots-of-money friends. I mean a real novel! Real only to you, but still.
Yet, slowly and steadily like a leaking tap, you drip this news out to a couple more people because you want to. Then some acquaintances, then relatives and before you know… drip, drip, drip to complete strangers at the grocery store.
What happens is this – the moment you tell anyone you are writing a book, till the time you finish writing it, till the time it gets published, and all the pitiful long years in between you will be asked,
“So? What’s happening with your book?”
“Are you done? Oh, not yet?”
“What exactly are you doing?”
Every. Single. Time. You. Meet. Without fail.
I love the image one has of writers, as I had before writing my book – of sitting in harmony with your surroundings in a lovely carved wooden chair in front of a computer typing non-stop; delightful words just flowing from your brain to your fingers to your screen. And then five hours later, Voila! Ladies and gentlemen, you have a beautifully worded, stunningly plotted novel that will make you the next J.K. Rowling.
Which is so far out it stops being funny, almost as soon as everybody stops laughing.
Can you blame your friends for asking? Didn’t your eyes pop a mile out when you realized just how long this entire process would take?
Slightly offended, you try to explain the infamous ‘rewrite’ to your friends thereby hinting, hey, now look here – all writers are just as bad as me. You give them examples of famous authors who are even more famous for rewrites, like Amy Tan who had to rework one of her books almost thirty times. Everyone knows Amy Tan, right?
This little speech is met by stares; some completely blank like looking at a two-page math equation at the end of which you forget your own name.
Some openly suspicious – is she putting us on? Why would anyone rewrite an entire novel? Can’t you write it correctly in the first place? Are you so bad?
No amount of explanation will save you from being asked the exact same question again. And yet again. And then with some modifications – “Are you done rewriting? It’s been two years! Why isn’t your book in the store?”
By the end of which you want to hurry home and blast off a NaNoWrMo spell which is almost entirely filled with crap that neither fits your plot nor matches your characters, which you will nevertheless save for eternity. Of course, then you are vexed into thinking you were never meant to do this ‘writing’ thing because all you can write is comatose rubbish. Which stresses you out so much, you force yourself to sit in front of a computer willing yourself to write and stare at a blank page for hours. And then just give up and die because you always knew you couldn’t do it.
So, I just have this to say especially to my fellow first-timers – keep your mouth shut. Firmly. There, I said it. Zip, zip.
Spare yourself this agony by keeping your book close to your heart for now. Let your warm indulgence nurture it into shape. And take heart that even famous authors don’t always know where their book will take them.
Very few writers know what they are doing until they’ve done it.
– Ann Lamott
Anisha Bhatia moved to San Diego twelve years ago from Mumbai, India to study at SDSU. In the meager free time that her two little kidlets kindly bestow upon her, she likes to take walks, catch up with friends, eat and read, the latter often at the same time.