My First Novel

It’s taken root!

I was an avid reader for a long time, from early childhood in fact, before I decided I wanted to be a writer. I was lucky to be born into a family of readers. Right from the time I was a kid in primary school, I remember my maternal grandfather almost always having his nose buried in books whenever I dropped in to visit him and my grandmother. This was nearly every day since they lived just across the street in the opposite building.

In my own house, I remember how all of us liked to curl up with a book very night after dinner and on Sunday afternoons after lunch. Mum would usually settle down with the day’s newspaper or a magazine, we kids would browse through the once-a-week book from our school library, usually Enid Blyton books from the Brer Rabbit, Noddy, or Mallory Towers series, or abridged versions of the classics, and Dad would be immersed in one of his western novels of which he had a really v-a-s-t collection, mostly books by Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour and Max Brand. Dad also had a large number of books by Erle Stanley Gardner and Edgar Wallace, and a few by Frank G. Slaughter, Taylor Caldwell, and A. J. Cronin (including The Judas Tree).

By the time I was in high school, I was already dipping into Dad’s collection and I remember how Caldwell’s Let Love Come Last which I had taken to school with me one day had been confiscated by my class teacher. She returned it the next day along with a copy of Cronin’s The Green Years. “You’re too young to read that. Read this book instead,” she had said, with mock sternness. (The small smile on her face after the advice made this evident.) While still in my early teens I had also devoured a whole lot of Penguin biographies, those slim books with horizontal blue and white bands across the cover. During the summer holidays in Goa, in the morning pre-lunch hours, I would duck into a neighbour’s house and raid his bookcase to browse through his collection of these, day after day.

By the time I was in college I went through the Ayn Rand and Erich Segal phase, before moving on to Earnest Hemingway, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, George Orwell, Thomas Hardy, Mark Twain, P. G. Wodehouse, the Brontë sisters, and in later years, Mary Shelley, D. H. Lawrence, and yes, Shakespeare, in addition to a host of others. But if I had to pick just three of all the books I have read that have left a lasting impression, these would have to be: Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, and The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss. 

The reason I have mentioned my reading history is because my love for the written word has now blossomed into a desire to pen the first of the many books inside my head.  Till recently, merely whispering to me to set them free, they are now clamouring for my attention. I’m assuming that all of the great writers whose works I’ve read and appreciated will influence my own creations in some way or the other. Or at least I’m hoping they will.

I started penning my first novel on my sister Vera’s birthday in October last year. The story centres around relationships, is set in Goa, and has a small town/close-knit community backdrop. First draft in one year – that’s what I had planned. I’m ashamed to admit however that in eight months I have only managed a measly 3 of the 30 odd chapters. As it is, I got started on my first novel so late in life, and to make matters worse, I’m proceeding at the pace of a tortoise. I’ve heard of slow and steady wins the race, and all that, but the clock is ticking, and I know I need to flex my writing muscles and step on it if I have to reach the finishing line in say, a year or two from now.

Getting the time management right

So I’m going to manage things better from now on. I’m going to set aside a time for writing every day, besides making time for myself, specially for regular exercise, and being good to my spouse who has to be patient enough to put up with a little neglect now and then on my part. Writing is a lonely business, but we have to remember our families are also in this with us; they’re the support team urging us on from the side lines as we run our ‘completing my novel’ marathon race.

I feel blessed for being able to start something I always wanted to do. If any of you intend to write a book of your own, get to it right away. And to younger visitors who have stumbled on to my site, my advice would be: “Don’t leave things too late like I did!”

Here’s wishing you all the best with your own writing!