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How I became a published writer

Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan says how your blog could just turn into a book with a life of its own.

books Updated: Oct 03, 2008 15:38 IST
Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan

If you’re an only child, you’ll know that sometimes, through afternoons of boredom, there’s no one else you can turn to for entertainment but yourself. I believed I was important enough, like Anne Frank, like anyone who kept a journal, to be remembered after I died, so I started keeping a journal early.

I kept journals for years. Some years, they’d be minimalist: “Bumped into ‘A’ at the basketball court. Perhaps he saw me too.” Others, they’d be all description: “I wore my new deep blue stretch jeans and a baggy grey sweater with hearts on the sleeve and we ordered two large fries and filet of fish burgers, when she began to tell me the story of her life.” Sometimes, with my short attention span, I grew bored of writing a journal and often abandoned notebooks half full.

Which is when I discovered blogging. I started my blog four-and-a-half years ago trying to stay as honest as I’d been in my diaries. Only, this was different — unlike my diaries my blog has readers while I’m still alive. I toned down a bit on the things-I-don’t-even-admit-to-myself-at-three-am, upped the humour and downplayed the angst. Soon, to my utter bemusement, I was being read by people I didn’t even know. Wow.

When Penguin came to me and said they’d been reading the blog and wanted to know if I had a book, I was flabbergasted. I wrote for two weeks straight till I was convinced I had the beginnings of a book. It couldn’t have happened without my blog. Which is where my blog improvement tips come in.

If you’re a budding writer:
Remember, you’re writing for an audience. Keep self-indulgence to a minimum...

... but don’t cater to the audience. Write exactly what you want to write. People can smell fake a mile away. Don’t imitate anyone.

Punctuate, use grammar properly, space well.

Try and put an interesting spin on things. If you’re writing about your recent birthday for instance, make it anecdotal and full of dialogue.

Others like me

Many bloggers have been picked up by the publishing industry. Here are a few I’ve read:

1) Waiter Rant (www.waiterrant.net) has a book out, which is on the New York Times bestseller list. It chronicles his life as a waiter. According to his blog, he’s got another deal to write a book under cover, called At Your Service to talk about tipping people who work for you. He’s a good writer, and I look forward to the book, which, from what I hear, isn’t just a bunch of blog posts on paper.

2) Baghdad Burning (riverbendblog.blogspot.com) was made popular in August 2003, when this young anonymous Iraqi woman talked about the situation in her country in a searingly honest way. She mixed her political opinions with personal — talking about her daily life and the life of others in her country. The book continues to do well. The blog is no longer updated.

3) Belle Du Jour (http://belledejour-uk.blogspot.com/) is the blog of a popular London call girl who writes honestly and humourously about her life. She got two book deals and they both became sensations, leading to a TV series called Secret Diary Of A Call Girl, now in its second season. She is one of the few anonymous bloggers who remains anonymous, which only adds to her popularity.

4) Hack (newyorkhack.blogspot. com), is a book written by Mellisa Plaut, a cab driver in New York, who blogged about her experiences as a cabbie. Her blog afforded a realistic glimpse into the city’s life, and caught the eye of publishing house last year. The book, Hack: How I Stopped Worrying About What to Do With My Life and Started Driving a Yellow Cab became an instant bestseller. Plaut, who has been blogging since 2005, has stopped writing her blog now.