Updated: May 18
Writer Smita Das Jain shares the learnings from her year-long writing journey.
Firsts are always special. It is all the more memorable when you get love and recognition for your first work. I feel fortunate and grateful to experience this magic of love and recognition again at the beginning of the week.
Those following my journey through my blogs know that I began my writing sojourn last year, and self-published my first paperback, a short story collection, ‘A Slice of Life: Every Person Has A Story’ in September 2021. The book garnered much love and appreciation from the audience and the writing community for a debut author.
Now, as the release of my next book is around the corner, and I am experiencing different sorts of jitters the second time around, an announcement comes as a bolt from the blue. I found my name in the WriteFluence list of Top 3 self-published authors in India, 2022 for ‘A Slice of Life.’
Winning one of India’s most prestigious literary awards for self-published writers feels surreal. It also makes me reflect on my one-year journey and the path to this achievement.
To be sure, this is only the beginning of my journey as an author. I have a long way to go and many more milestones to achieve. At the same time, I believe in sharing my learnings with fellow aspiring writers.
From Emerging Writer to Award-Winning Author within a Year
In any endeavour, it takes years of hard work to become an overnight success. It is no different in the case of writing. I wrote ‘A Slice of Life’ from May to July 2021, which came out in September last year. Most of you will say term that a quick turnaround. But it took investment, commitment and persistence to come out with the book.
I am summarising my writer-to-author journey in 5 steps:
1. Invest in developing and honing your writing craft. Periodically and consistently.
If like me, you take writing not as a hobby but as an endeavour, you must take the time and invest in your development as a writer by taking some writing courses. And taking a writing course is not a one-time or one-off effort but a periodic necessity.
I first took a creative writing course at Stanford in 2018, three years before I started to write stories. Then in 2021, I took two writing courses simultaneously at Henry Harvin Institute, followed by a short workshop on KDP publishing by the Himalayan Writing Retreat so that I could handle the e-book launch of "A Slice of Life" myself. This year I am undertaking a course from The Writers Bureau, and I have identified a few more classes to take within the following year.
I intend to take at least one writing course a year to enhance my writing skills for as long as possible. Yes, it takes time, it takes determination, it takes investment, and it takes effort. But then, I want to become one of the best Indian writers in the world, and I am willing to pay the price for it.
The world is evolving, and your writing needs to be in tune with this dynamic world and oscillating audience tastes. And while self-learning is possible, expert guidance can sometimes shorten the lead time to achievement.
2. Write something daily, every single day.
Writing is a skill, and like every other skill, it improves with practice. You may learn all the literary devices and writing techniques in a classroom, but unless you apply that knowledge by practising it, all the learning and investment goes waste.
Since 20th April 2021, I have been writing something daily. The word count varies, and the time spent goes up and down based on what I am writing, but I have never missed a day. On the days I travel without a laptop or have heavy work commitments, I write on my phone for a few quick minutes and transfer all those notes to my computer. Otherwise, on a regular day, I have fixed, quiet hours when I write.
While I hear some of my fellow writers worry about finding the time to write, it is always the question of what to write within the time I have allocated for writing for me. Writing has by now become a habit, an intellectual workout that keeps my brain stimulated. That is how ‘A Slice of Life’ came out in the timeframe it did —I was writing two to three stories weekly. I still do.
Write something daily. It will not come easy at first, but success requires discipline. There are days when words will flow smoothly from your fingers to the keyboard, and there will be days when you have to drag yourself to write something. But don’t give up on yourself. For those struggling to figure out what to write daily, read my blog post 5 Techniques of Daily Writing When You Don’t Know What to Write.
180+ Reviews. 4.4 Star Rating on Amazon. Have you got your copy yet?
3. Join a writing community/group.
Writing can be a lonely process, but it gets easier when you know that you are not alone. Feedback from fellow writers provides you with moral support and also helps you improve your craft. Besides, you cannot put a finite value on the relationships and friendships you develop from being a part of the larger community.
Though I am a proud contributor to platforms like StoryMirror and Women’s Web, it is Penmancy where I find a vibrant community of writers. I joined the group in May 2021, and the feedback, reviews, and comments I received in the community, besides the opportunity to read the work of fellow talented writers, took my writing a notch higher. I attempted genres like science, historical and mythological fiction which I thought were not my forte, and realised the importance of editing in writing. My stories pre and post ‘A Slice of Life’ have different maturity levels. I have won multiple awards for my individual stories at various forums, and I know that my joining Penmancy has a significant role to play in it.
Being part of a community makes the difference between a good book and a great one. Besides, you will need community support for the sales when the book gets released.
4. Publish Your Work Regularly
You cannot write a novel or a self-help book every month. But you do need to keep your readers engaged and build a following in the meanwhile. There are numerous Indian and global platforms available to you to upload your work- be it a story, poem, quote or audio tale. These platforms vet your output as per their editorial guidelines; however, since there is no sale and censorship, the process is convenient and time-efficient. You need only your smartphone to submit your work to them, and within 24-48 hours, your work will be up there for people to see and comment on. Once your write-up is featured, you can share the microsite link with your network and brag about the publication.
You will build a following on the platform through regular publishing of your work, which you can leverage for your book. Another advantage you will get is that once your work is published, you will get your microsite within these platforms, which will serve as a one-stop portfolio of your writing work for people to view.
5. Focus. Focus. Focus. Get selective about writing formats and genres.
While writing is all about exploration, and you should try your hand at all genres and formats as a new writer, you must build an author brand as you move along the journey. What should be the first thing that comes to your readers’ minds when they think about you as a writer? What writing formats do you want to be known for, and which genres should you claim as your own? Write more in the areas that come up in your answers.
While I like to dabble in all formats as a writer, I have intentionally kept off from publishing my poetry (I still do write them) because I have decided that, for the time being, I do not want to develop my brand as a poet. And while I have experimented in all genres through my drabbles, flash fiction and short stories, I am conscious of having the twist factor embedded in all my stories- for that is what I want to be known for. And while I still write short stories every week, the frequency is lesser than last year because I have decided to focus on longer novel formats this year.
If you take writing as a hobby, by all means, continue to experiment and have fun. But if you want to build your brand as an author, get choosy about the genres and pick formats selectively.
The Last Word: From Writer to Author — You too can be one.
I am not a writing expert, and I don’t claim to be a successful author by any means yet. But the fact is that from an unknown emerging writer a year ago, I have become an award-winning self-published author for my debut publication, and will become a traditionally published author this year. My short stories have been published on various Indian and global (soon to be out) platforms. I plan to write my second novel this year. All this is in addition to multiple blogs, business articles, and other non-fiction writing.
The tips above are learnings from my journey, and I hope it contributes to your growth as a writer.
If I can do it, you can too. The only thing stopping you is your mindset. Believe you can do it, be disciplined and follow a process. Then see the results for yourself.
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A Slice of Life: What Readers Say
"Stories that stay with you long after you have read them."
"An unmissable book for short story lovers."
"With understated elegance, Smita Das Jain has drawn in the reader to become immersed in the tale of families, lovers and friends..."