Writing can be a lonely profession, writes Ruskin Bond in How To Be A Writer (HarperCollinsChildren’sBooks; Rs 299). But when there is “someone who has survived as a writer for seventy years” with you to guide and advise and has “something to offer by way of ‘tips’ or the lessons learnt from all the ups and downs of a literary journey”, who will ever feel lonely while writing. But one must agree that “one writes best when one is alone.”
In his latest book, the octogenarian author gives budding and aspiring writers many a practical advices – in his typical understated tongue-in-cheek, humorous style. Before one gets to the seven chapters in this 124-page book which are further sub-divided, Bond gives you an introduction as to why he writes. He explains how a writer doesn’t have the liberty to be repetitive unlike artists and musicians. But as he says, “The important thing is to keep writing, observing, listening and paying attention to the beauty of words and their arrangement.”
The first chapter – Getting Started – is further sub-divided into five sections through which Bond says one needs to have love for books, language and life along with an observant eye, a good memory, enthusiasm, optimism and most importantly, persistence to be a great writer. He says “if we are skillful enough to make a living from what we write, there is no finer profession to pursue.”
Chapter two – Preparation – has been sub-divided into two parts which are further sub-divided. While the first sub-section emphasises on Reading, Finding a familiar setting and Fantasy, to, but…, the second sub-section, Training Yourself To Be A Writer, talks guides you for Your writing routine, The importance of notes, Be ready for an idea to strike you at the oddest of times and Dream too. Bond writes: “Books are essential for the creative mind, and good readers become good writers.” The celebrated author adds, “I have always advised young writers – wishing to write novels or short stories – to set their stories in the places they know about.” And that “writing something every day, even a page or two, would be ideal.”
In Chapter three – The Writing – Bond explains that one should always “use simple words to express”. Never add confusion, Bond suggests, adding one needs to be original, never follow stereotypes and “try to find your own style and voice”.
Chapter four – Creating Characters – highlights on the importance of building up characters and not letting them grow old. Bond cites the example of Agatha Christie who introduced Hercule Poirot in her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. The author didn’t know that Poirot, who had already retired from the Belgian Police force, will go on to become so popular that she will have a problem about his age when, forty years later, he would be still solving cases.
What To Write About – chapter five of Bond’s book – introduces aspiring writers to popular themes like humour, political satire, ghost stories, hunters, vampires, horror, home, families, individuals or school stories. Bond says choosing a title is very important so be careful.
The celebrated author in chapter six – Stumbling Blocks – advises you to “be open to criticism and not resent it as the greatest of writers haven’t escaped it.” Bond also suggests ways to get out of a writer’s block here. And in case “you are really fed up with what you have done and know it’s rotten, use the wastepaper basket”.
Chapter seven – Getting Published – guides you on how to get your work published. “It can take weeks, months, sometimes more than a year, to find a publisher for your book” so you need to be patient. Bond writes: “In your eagerness to be published don’t take out all your savings and pay someone to print a few copies of your book. That may be the end of it. Because unless there’s someone to distribute and sell your book for you, you may have to sell it yourself – and that isn’t easy”. But “never give up”.
At the end are Bond’s recommendations on the books one should read to become an honest and successful writer. Not to forget a perforated colourful postcard (designed by graphic designer, illustrator and lettering artist Chaaya Prabhat) which you can send to Ruskin Bond, should you want to know anything more about the subject.
Except for the cover, the entire book is in black and white. Illustrations, design and layout done by children’s book illustrator and graphic designer Shamika Chaves are simple yet attractive.
A must have for all those who aspire to be writers and those who happen to be Bond fans.