• 6 debut authors offer tips on writing

    by ELLE Team

    It's okay to borrow from your life

    “Writers are inveterate borrowers and your own life is low-hanging fruit. It’s hardly surprising that bits of your life and those around you creep into your book almost without you realizing it. It unnerved me when it happened to me but ultimately I realized that was OK. None of the characters in my novel are real but some of the incidents in their lives, some of their idiosyncrasies, even a turn of phrase, spring from memory. It is actually lovely to relive that memory and hear the voice of a long-dead real great grandmother in your head again as you try to bring to life your fictional great-grandmother. Writing, as has been said, is an act of remembering as much as it is an act of imagining. And if all else fails, as a writer friend advised when asked how he mollified aunts who might recognize themselves in his book,” I always introduce them as looking wonderfully elegant in a beautiful sari. After that nothing else matters.”

    - Sandip Roy

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  • You don’t need to write every day

    “Burning yourself out trying to reach that goal is pointless, as is shaming yourself for not sitting down to put down a few obligatory words on any one day. If your heart’s not in it, those words are mere literary chaff. Better to read a book, meet people, watch a movie, go outside. My best place to write is surrounded by strangers in a warm, lively cafe, music in my ears, hot cup of coffee at the ready. But the trick, of course, is to make anywhere and everywhere the best place to write, or you’ll keep making excuses. You can’t always find that ideal coffee shop.”

    – Indra Das

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  • Don’t be a perfectionist

    “Write in a flow. Do not pause to spell check — or rename your character or change the font for the 15th time. Just keep writing. It allows you to get every single thought and idea — good, bad, award-winning — out of your head and onto the page and then figure out what isn’t going to fit. Spending ages tweaking a sentence means setting yourself up for failure right away. It’s not going to be perfect on day one, or on day 365, or even when you’ve sent it off to the printers. So just keep typing, otherwise you’ll be at your desk for the next 15 years and there will be no book or book parties or free wine or a condescending man asking you why you can’t write like Michael Crichton.”

    Saba Imtiaz

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  • Get excited about revision

    "We're taught to shudder at that word, to think of it as something between mindless drudgery and a perfunctory exercise, but revision in fiction is where things get really interesting. A first draft of a story is just that – a quick laying down of framework, a base understanding of the world you've created.  A revision, on the other hand, is the exploring of that world, the discovery of its nuances, the understanding of what is behind certain corners and cupboard doors. It's what allows you to make the story your own in a way no one else can.”

    - Mira Jacob

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  • There is more to writing than just writing

    “Even though it is said you are not really a writer unless you are actually writing, I learned that a lot of writing happens when you aren’t writing, when you are living, observing, experiencing the world around you and absorbing it into your psyche so that it becomes a part of you. I think that is the predominant principle when it comes to being a writer — learning to filter the universe through the prism of language.”

    – Rosalyn D'Mello

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  • Slay your writer’s block

    “Writer’s block is just clutter in your brain you have to get around, or break through with a battering ram. The battering ram is your own words; they will be rubbish, trite shit that you hit later with your Delete key. But you need them, those frontline soldiers who are meant to go down in a hail of bullets. Don’t lift your fingers off those keys. Bang away, purge, think of it as an enema, a colonic-cleanse, but for the brain. Once the garbage has been taken out, beauty will flow.”

    – Kersi Khambatta