Atulya Mahajan on ‘Writing a Book’

AM Inner

We all know how boring office meetings can sometimes get. You’ve just had a heavy lunch of rajma masala, egg curry and jeera rice, topped it off with saunf, taken a half-hour walk outside, and now it is time to attend boring meetings about random topics that may or may not be relevant to you. Your eyes are drooping, but you’ve perfected the ability to sleep with the shutters up. You wish that the projector was beaming pictures of pretty young things like Katrina Kaif, and not that hideous Excel file in various shades of grey. You want to get out before you end up strangling someone.

What do you do? First thing you do, is exercise constraint. And then you think. You think of things you’d rather be doing. Some dream of rolling in swimming pools of cash, some visualise rolling in the hay with a pretty actress, some others dream of winning the Roadies finale and getting that rare ‘respect’ from Raghu sir. In fact, research has shown that such meetings are where most of the world’s most fertile dreams are seen.

Then some others dream of doing something creative, like writing a book. Yes there are all types. I did just that, so thought of sharing my experience in public interest.

I’ll start with a question for such people. What’s wrong with you? Why wouldn’t you rather be at a beach resort in the Maldives than write a book? There is a reason they show writers to be drunken people in tattered clothes searching for food in movies.

Writing a book is an ardous journey, not for the faint-hearted.

You see, well-begun is not half-done. When it comes to writing a book, it is merely that – well-begun. Most people will, in a moment of inspiration, write two pages and then skip ahead to formulating their Booker acceptance speeches. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work like that. The first hurdle is pushing yourself from those two pages to two hundred. Or more. This journey would be much like the one Hercules undertook, only it comes at a different cost, like your child forgetting your name, carpal-tunnel syndrome, hair-loss, weight-gain, and being called a sociopath.

You’ll complete your manuscript, and then there will be rounds of review after review. The problem with that is that god doesn’t believe in making people consistent. Reviews for the same manuscript will range from ‘Oh my god, this is the BEST book ever’ to ‘Oh my god. What were you thinking? Go kill yourself’. And as human nature goes, you’ll trust the one that makes you look bad, though you’ll pretend to actually ignore it. Your self-confidence will go for a long walk, while you wallow in your pain.

If writing the book is like slogging for the IITJEE, wait till you get to publishers. They will remind you of the parents of that pretty girl you fancied back in college. In other words, Hitlers. Just like her parents, they won’t first answer your calls, and when they do, they’ll tell you that you are not good enough. Good luck there.

But like with girls, persistence will pay eventually (hopefully) and you’ll land one, after numerous rounds of pulling your hair out (thereby compounding the hairloss problem), groveling in front of them, and promising to do anything it takes to win their love. The book is on.

A few hundred rounds of editing will follow. It has not been proven yet, but the word on the street is that this process is designed to ensure that you can memorise the book and are able to recite passages on demand, in case all copes of the book disappear from the planet magically. Some writers have been known to start mumbling in their sleep, constantly begging forgiveness from their editor for not living upto her expectations.

If you are lucky, your book will be in stores about a year after you completed the initial draft. That’s if you get a fast-track process. Daily offerings of fruits and a bucket of milk to the neighborhood temple have been known to help speed the process.

Writing a book is like living a second life. But then that could also be because you’re kicked out of your original one, so the overall count remains constant.

But it all comes together when the courier guy rings the bell and hands you that first advance copy. You open the package anxiously and there it is. It’s your child. Your labour of love. The missus makes a black mark on the top right corner to ward off evil spirits. You hold it in your arms, careful lest you cause any damage to the newborn. And suddenly a drop of tear appears out of nowhere.

That beach vacation in Maldives never made anyone cry. Book 1. Maldives 0.


Amreekandesi’, Atulya Mahajan’s first book  is available on Flipkart and all other major retailers. You can order your copy here:

 About the Author

Atulya Mahajan is the author of, a popular Indian satire blog. Born and raised in Delhi, he moved to the US in 2004 for his Masters and stayed on for five years before returning to India, in a Swades-inspired moment. During his time in the US, he started his blog to chronicle the lives of Indians living abroad, and this book is the culmination of that vision. He also writes occasional humour columns for the Times of India, Crest Edition.

The Penguin India Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s