Can you spin a yarn?

With international publishing giants setting up offices in India, writing as a career has become more interesting, says Pranab Ghosh.

education Updated: Apr 24, 2012 16:48 IST
Pranab Ghosh
Pranab Ghosh
Hindustan Times

A writer creates, informs and entertains. S/he even transforms. "The process of writing is a rollercoaster ride. It's painful but it gives you the joy of creating something, which will reach out to many many people, across groups, generations, nations," says Minakshi Thakur, Editor, Harper Collins, a passionate reader who hates to reject manuscripts. She's also someone who has turned her hobby into a profession.

"Publishing has grown in India in a big way and will keep growing in the years to come, especially with so many multinational (publishing) giants setting up offices in India now. It naturally benefits people who are thinking of taking up writing as a career. There is a lot of experimentation happening with Indian writing in English and writing in the bhashas. Lot of new faces, young voices and viewpoints are emerging. New genres are evolving, new lines of thoughts being taken up. For someone writing a first book, there are a lot more publishing opportunities and more money in terms of an advance and royalty than a decade ago," says Minakshi.

Well known writer and author of The Last Mughal, William Dalrymple couldn't agree more. "It was difficult to make a career in writing (in India) even 10 years ago. But now it is economically viable. However, you need to be lucky, and get a good start," he points out.

What does one need to become a writer? "First and foremost, an interest in storytelling. An ability to spin a yarn. You don't need any specific background but a felicity with words and phrases," says Nandita Bhardwaj, Managing Editor, Roli Books. And how exactly do you prepare yourself for a career in writing? "Definitely read a lot, be aware of and notice things that are happening around in the world and give importance to details," says Milee Ashwarya, Commissioning Editor, Random House Publishers India. And what would you write on? Would it be technical writing, fiction or pure poetry? Says Monica Saigal, Acquisition Editor, Vikas Publishing House, "There are different genres… but the choice as to which one to pick depends on the personal choice and creative capacity of every individual."

Career: Writer
Writing is all about expression. To be able to creatively put forth the inner feelings and thoughts is what is important. A good writer is one who can carry his readers along with him wherever he goes. There are different genres. There's the literary novel. Mass market fiction - chick lit, lad lit, campus novels that have picked up in a big way in India. Short story as a form has also resurrected itself in Indian publishing. Pulp fiction is something one could try out. Some of the greatest action thrillers, detective fiction, murder mysteries and fantasy novels still wait to be written in India. Poetry is also published, though very few titles in numbers and print run. Also there is graphic fiction and non-fiction. Good non-fiction - biographies, memoirs, case studies - never goes out of fashion. Another interesting trend these days is Indian language publishing and translation between the languages and from the languages into English. Translation as a profession could therefore be explored.

Clock work
5 am: Get up; do yoga
7 am: Read newspapers, books, letters
10 am: Editing/writing work at office begins
4 pm: Meetings with authors/writers
6 pm: Write notes
8 pm: Reaches home; reads magazines
At times reads/writes through the night

The payoff
A writer can be employed in various creative roles in production
houses (serial scripts, film scripts), ad agencies, publishing houses, media organisations, etc.
As a beginner one can earn around Rs 20,000 a month
Between Rs 50, 000 to Rs 1,00,000 as one goes on to gain experience (it's the middle level)
For a well-established author who has a finger on the pulse of his readers, sky is the limit

Deep insight
A creative mind
Power to reason
Knowledge of Grammer
Power to express in words
Ability to master the art of depicting real life in a simulated world
Self discipline to stay true to your craft

How do I get there?
Minimum eligibility: 10 + 2, to pursue a course in creative writing.

The minimum duration of the programme is one year, stretchable to a maximum of four years (IGNOU offers such courses)
Desirable qualification: A Bachelor's degree in any stream

"Humanities is usually the most popular choice amongst writers, as it helps one delve deeper into literature, philosophy, history, society, etc. but science and commerce backgrounds too come in good stead for writers who choose to write on these subjects," says Milee Ashwarya of Random House. You may, as well, take online help to hone your skill

Institutes & URLs
Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Maidan Garhi, New Delhi;
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, KG Marg, New Delhi

Centre for Research in Art of Film and Television (CRAFT, for short-term course on script writing), New Delhi

The British Council located in all the major metro cities

Xavier's Institute of Communication, Mumbai
Central Institute of Indian Languages, Karnataka

Online courses:
Iowa, Idaho, Columbia and New York University are some of the well-known centres for writing

Pros & Cons
Great creative fulfilment
Ability and channels to communicate with your readers
A liberating career; freedom to write on anything
Freedom to create imaginary people, reconstruct history, retell crises, wars, tragedies etc
Cheering up people, readers
Will not be able to write on everything
You will not be able to write all the time; Hence you would need something to fall back on
Readers and critics may not like you
Lot of struggle required
Less pay at the initial stage of your career

First Published: Jun 15, 2009 18:00 IST