Monday, 17 March 2014

how I became a writer, for real

There are two stories that kicked off what I like to think of as my writing career. The first is Aranya's Last Voyage, which won a short story collection held by the Deccan Herald in 2009. I had talked myself into giving up writing - do all writers do this from time to time or just the whiney ones like me? - but I'd had this story in the back of my mind for a long time and decided to take a chance and write it for the contest. It was based on a dream that I had had a long time ago - I still remember the house in Jayanagar where I was at the time. My first attempt to turn the dream into a story had been a science fiction story, but this time around I found a register that was better suited to what I wanted to do. Winning the contest made me feel that all my inklings that I could write well and tell an interesting story were maybe not just self-delusion.

Not a lot happened after that. I had a few short stories published in anthologies for younger readers, but I was fast reaching a dead end, as I really wanted to write something a lot more weird than the editors I was dealing with at the time were interested in. The idea of writing a ghost story based on local urban legends and tall tales occurred to me. I have always loved fiction that is tied in with a specific city in the way Peter Ackroyd and Michael Moorcock have written 'London novels' and I believed that Bangalore was one of the great cities - a place that is always changing but somehow still contains all its older selves alongside its new identities.

I put aside my multiple half-baked WIPs and spent a lot of time putting this story together. I poured so much of myself into the story - not just my life but all the things I had picked up from the stories I loved the most. After a few rejections I somehow had the temerity to ask Anna Tambour, a writer whom I respect a great deal and who had been generous with her time in the past, to take a look at the story. Not a lot of people will take the effort to thoroughly critique some random newbie's tale, and Anna's comments were so thorough and insightful that the story wound up being exponentially better. Sadly, more rejections followed and Anna decided to host the story, Come Tomorrow, on her own website. Having something up there in a venue that was not my blog gave me a sense of finally being something like a 'real' writer.

Today, I think I've got a grip of writing. I always have a few ideas for stories, and I am nearly always working on a story. I've developed the stamina and discipline to be productive and I try to broaden my scope, teaching myself to tell more kinds of stories. Everything I have written since Come Tomorrow has broadly been weird fiction or horror, but I'm willing to drop the horror element altogether and try out different ways of writing weird fiction. I intend to write all sorts of things - I'm in this for life, now. I still feel a little shaky from time to time, and I have considered the possibility that my current run of good luck will dry up and that I will cease being published, but I don't feel that will stop me from writing.

Still, we are contingent beings and I don't think I would have made the leap from kind of wanting to be a writer to actually being one without these two stories. I don't know how good they are, and conversely I am not sure I have actually improved as a writer since I wrote them, but at least I am able to read them without cringing, and with some enjoyment. 

1 comment:

Dinesh Raghavendra said...

I think you are a really good writer and you deserve to be read more widely. I have enjoyed all your stories and you are an inspiration.