Anamika is a renowned Hindi poet, novelist, a translator, and a professor at the University of Delhi, who, with her long writing experience, has shared some insights on how to become a good writer.
By Shruti Bansal : What is fiction? It is literature in a form of prose that describes one’s imagination. Creating an unknown world filled with stories and different backgrounds. Therefore, writing fiction is one of the most satisfying forms of human artistic expression. As the name suggests, it involves a thoughtful process of a perfect blending of words and imagination that helps authors in describing their own thought processes. However, it is not an easy task for many writers to launch their careers, as the road towards it is not an easy one.
It is essential for aspiring writers to put in a lot of hard work on multiple fronts. Getting that first book written requires you to refine your writing skills, develop good story ideas, and learn how to tackle writer’s block. And the work of a writer doesn’t end here, as they also need to navigate the publishing industry effectively.
Anamika is a Hindi poet, novelist, and translator. Poems from her national award-winning poetry collections, Anushtup, Khurduri Hatheliyan, Doob-Dhan, etc, are prescribed at various universities.
Her essays on womanist discourse in Hindi have been translated into many languages and she herself has translated the works of Rilke, Neruda, Doris Lessing, Octavio Paz, and fellow women poets extensively. She is currently a Professor in the Department of English at Satyawati College, Delhi University.
In the candid chat with Anamika during the Jaipur Literature Festival 2023, she gives us a fresh and honest perspective on what it takes to write for the readers of today, bringing insights into how to become a good novelist.
WHAT IS THE STARTING POINT?
Writing a novel includes different kinds of ideas and linguistic registers (polyphony) which have to come into play in the novel, and the truth is examined from various perspectives. It is important for the novelist to at least keep a mental note of how people speak, what they speak, and how they react in different difficult situations in life. A novelist has to be a patient listener and a keen observer of the ironies of life.
“A novel is a deep moral enquiry into life from various perspectives, a kind of playfield, a Leela Bhoomi, which can turn into a runbhoomi, a battlefield of ideas, almost as easily as in the Mahabharat a real battlefield turned into a playfield, a Leela Bhoomi when Sri Krishna started rendering the Sakha summit upadesh (the Bhagwat Geeta),” said Dr Anamika.
One must understand the characters of the story, identify your story’s setting and motivations, and then make a checklist of details one wants to include. As readers don’t pick up a book by looking up a theme, they are most interested in characters that stick to their memory.
BACKGROUND IS NOT IMPORTANT!
The background is not so important. The way we can all express ourselves in speech, we can articulate our share of truth in writing too. Aren’t we all somehow fine-tuning the rough draft called life in our own ways? Potentially, we are all the editors and translators of our thoughts, but only some people bother to write them in a given frame called genre.
“I am of the firm belief that, like the seeds of Buddhahood, the seeds of writerhood are also inherent in all of us. We just have to nurture the seeds by being open to all kinds of experience and also by reading a lot, not only literary classics but also history and philosophies of all kinds,” said the novelist.
“It is equally important to strike a deep dialogue with people across classes, castes, genders, races, and moral geographies without indulging in the politics of others,” she further added.
During this interactive conversation, she further tells us about at what age she started inculcating the habit of writing, and how she makes it a passion.
‘I wrote my first novel after my board exams’ – Anamika
“Intrigued by the strains in the life of a schoolmate who was born to a famous courtesan in the red-light area of my own hometown, I wrote my first novel after my board exams, however, poems I had started composing much earlier, primarily in response to the different “samasya poorti” exercises and poetry antaksharies that my poet father kept playing with,” said DU professor.
THEME IS IMPORTANT TO CHOOSE
Each genre has its own relevance and simplicity, and to understand the core, one needs to have a deep understanding of it. A lack of knowledge and interest will not help in creating a bond with readers.
Further, on to interaction, Anamika also tells us that she is more interested in writing women’s centric novels and poems, which help her to come up with wider issues. This is a way she can keep them forward in front of society.
“I feel like applying women’s lens to all kinds of themes: terror in the bedroom to terror in war fields. Men are not beyond repair, but they have had a say for so long, and see for yourself what kind of world they have created – violent and dry to the core,” she said.
HOW IS THE WRITING STYLE OF TODAY DIFFERENT FROM EARLIER?
With the deepening of democracy, writers have become more informal and chattier, and the hierarchy between personal and political, cosmic, and commonplace, classical, and popular has broken. The wall between genres, too, has been more porous, at least the formal divide between prose and poetry has been pulled down.
AN ADVICE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS
“Good novels demand many drafts, so one should never rush up. Some poems come in a flash, they just happen, but more often than not they also demand multiple pruning and restructurings for a more concentrated effect,” said Anamika.
“This is what I had learnt a long time back from my father, but Ma put it across in an incredibly beautiful manner when she said that drafts should be kept aside like dough. When you let time pass between two drafts, time also becomes a player in the game,” she further added.