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Rules of writing

entertainment Updated: Feb 28, 2009 11:23 IST
Jerry Pinto
Jerry Pinto
Hindustan Times
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The odd thing is that people have now started asking me for rules. “What rules would you say a male newbie in Mumbai should follow when talking to women?” writes a journalist. “What are the rules for email communication?” writes another. I think this column is partly at fault. My mug at the top and my air of distinction.. the combination must be irresistible.

The newest request for rules came from an ex-student who wanted me to tell her what are the rules for writing.
Like that. Like that only.

I obligingly started writing down my rules and then came up against a really sneaky thought. I can turn this into a column, I thought, and I wrote to her saying, “Ah come on, are there rules? Can there be rules? Don’t be silly. I mean, even that film starring Milind whatever flopped, no?”

My rules for writing

Everyone’s a writer. You should know that. If you write, you’re a writer. You addressed an envelope this morning? You're a writer. This is the problem. Once you have become a writer, you’ll discover that everyone else is too.

Find the time. I have lost count of the number of people who have said to me, “I could write a novel about my life, if I could find the time.” I have never figured out what to say to that so I now say, “Many a mickle makes a muckle.” This sounds like it might be right, anyway.

Write what you know about.

You don’t know about anything? Find out.

Can’t be bothered to find out? Write about your sex life.

If you have a vanilla sex life, invent a Valrhona chocolate mousse spiked with dry ginger sex life.

But don’t expect to be famous. The only famous people in India are actors and cricketers.

And don’t expect to be rich. The rich people in India are people you don’t want to be associated with. They kiss up to right-wing chief ministers who author pogroms. They tell you that they’re too young to do charity. They run down homeless people who happen to be sleeping on the road. They shoot models who refuse them drinks. They waste the world’s resources,
flying about in private jets.

Still want to be rich? Try another gig.

So if writing makes you happy, do it and forget about the money.

If writing makes you unhappy, do it only if you will be unhappier if you do not write. (This is to cover all those bozos who have enriched us immeasurably by writing and then popped guns into their mouths and ended it all. I wouldn’t sell you insurance.)

Don’t give up your day job. If you don’t sell much, you don’t make money. If you sell millions of copies and you begin to make money, the pirates will get you.

If the pirates get you, smile. Think of your DVD collection.

Don’t give away free copies. Unless it’s a self-published book of poetry. Then give away as many free copies as you can.

Do not give them to your friends as birthday gifts. You will soon want for friends.

Don’t be offended if you find that your book with its loving dedication to a friend has landed up on the raddhiwala’s pile of books. Just get another set of friends