Sunday, 24 March 2013

Lust for life - How Anja got her story

I met Anja Hebner at a Guardian Masterclass run by the wonderful Greg Mosse and fabulous Kate Mosse. Thanks to this workshop, I got the synopsis of the third novel in my Bombay Chronicles Series. I also discovered a brilliant writing guru in Greg Mosse, and a lifelong friend in Anja Hebner. This is Anja's story of birthing her first novel:

"An old man who had moved me with his lust for life and touched me with his intriguing story, died and left nobody. That's when I decided to be his heir and write his story down. I saved some money, took three months off my regular job, got a great send-off at work and many questions: 
How are you ever going to finish a book in only three months? I had no idea. 
Are you going to earn money on this? I don't think so. 
How on earth did you come up with the idea of writing a book?It's my dream.

Anja Hebner
Without further ado I sat down on day one and wrote until my fingers got sore. I wrote the entire story that was living in my head, without sequence and structure. I wrote what was there. I stole from his letters, some of which he had kept for 70 years and invent stories to the photographs in the sailor's leather suitcase that had served him through half a century of seamanship. I imagined, made-up, burst out and erased, researched and deleted pages and pages on end. This man ought not to be forgotten! Then I met a professional writer. He did not read a word of my prose and asked me:
What is the perspective?
Which type of plot are you using?
Who do you want the reader to identify with?
Who is delivering your message?
What IS your message?
I did not know. I had produced 200 pages of potentially random, meaningless, unconnected text that couldn't be used to anything! I stopped writing. I couldn't even look at my text again. It looked ugly and wrong.  It took a weekend in London at a Guardian Masterclass to hear author Kate Mosse say: "The most important thing with your first novel is to finish it. Drop all complexity, all those extra layers, times and flashbacks. Finish it as fast as you can." And it took fellow student Laxmi to say: "You will learn everything by writing your first book. That's what you're writing it for." 
I wrote more pages and some more. I edited all these sheets of words and characters until they blurred before my eyes. Two months after I had written word one, did I send my complete draft one off to the people who had volunteered to proofread it for me and would let me have their honest and competent opinion. It was more to prove there was actually something I could present: my book.  As immature and incomplete and imperfect it may be: I made the old man's life unforgettable and my dream come true."
For more go to LAXMIwrites 

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