14 April, 2015

#GuestPost :: The Wonder of Not Knowing by Shatrujeet Nath

Shatrujeet Nath has sold ice-creams, peddled computer training courses, written ad copy, and reported on business as a journalist and assistant editor at The Economic Times. His first book, The Karachi Deception, was published in 2013. The Guardians of the Halahala is his second book, and the first in The Vikramaditya Trilogy series. He divides his time between writing fiction and poetry, reading, playing with his daughter – and dreaming of buying a small castle in Scotland. Till that happens, he plans to continue living in Mumbai.

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The Wonder of Not Knowing

When I buckled down to write The Karachi Deception, my first book, one of the first things I remember thinking was 'this is going to be easy'. What made me so sure, you ask? Well, I had been a journalist for more than eleven years, most of which I had spent writing stories. How hard would writing a novel be?

Before putting the first word down on paper, I had decided that my manuscript would be some 60,000 words in length, and it would take me all of two months to hammer the thing out. I could probably have told you precisely how many commas and apostrophes I would be using in the book. I was that cocksure.

When I finally finished my first draught, the manuscript had swelled to over 131,000 words. And it had taken me all of five months to write it! By the time I was done with the second draught, I had invested another three months into the manuscript – and whittled the word count to just about 100,000 words.

There are all kinds of lessons to be learnt in this. That writing a book is a lot of hard work. That it demands focus, and more than focus, patience. That there is merit in working on a second draught of any manuscript… 

But that is not what I want to share here. It's stuff you possibly know anyway.

What really opened my eyes was the thing I call 'The Wonder of Not Knowing' – which is key to the creative process.

Had I known at the very beginning that it would take eight months and countless edits and rewrites to put a manuscript together, chances are I would never have set out to write a novel. The sheer amount of time and effort required would have discouraged me from writing. But because I didn't know what I was getting into, I plunged in fearlessly. The not knowing was what helped me write that book, where knowing would have hopelessly derailed me, sapping me of my enthusiasm.

The Wonder of Not Knowing is the reason why books actually get written.  Authors begin writing with little more than a germ of an idea. However compelling or convincing the idea might be, it is at best a germ and never a fully fleshed narrative. The author doesn't yet know what to do with the idea, where to go with it. That is when the creative magic kicks in and the joy of discovery begins.

One by one, the author begins building the layers around the core idea, something like un-peeling an onion, if it were possible. On many occasions, the author surprises himself, marveling at the possibilities unfolding while admiring his resourcefulness. True, the author can muddle into dead ends, which can be frustrating, but that is part of the Wonder of Not Knowing. The thrill of extricating oneself from a literary mud pit and renewing the journey, smarter and wiser, has few parallels.

If every author knew from the very beginning each and every beat and inflection point in his story, the tedium of writing would suck the joy out of the experience. Then writing would become a factory-driven process, an assembly line of events, scenes and denouements. It is The Wonder of Not Knowing the outcome of so many things that makes the writing worthwhile.

So my suggestion to all those who are burning with the desire to write, but are afraid they do not know how to begin and how to go forward – surrender to the Wonder of Not Knowing and enjoy the ride.

The deadly Halahala, the all-devouring poison churned from the depths of the White Lake by the devas and asuras, was swallowed by Shiva to save the universe from extinction.
But was the Halahala truly destroyed?
A small portion still remains – a weapon powerful enough to guarantee victory to whoever possesses it. And both asuras and devas, locked in battle for supremacy, will stop at nothing to claim it.
As the forces of Devaloka and Patala, led by Indra and Shukracharya, plot to possess the Halahala, Shiva turns to mankind to guard it from their murderous clutches. It is now up to Samrat Vikramaditya and his Council of Nine to quell the supernatural hordes – and prevent the universe from tumbling into chaos!
A sweeping tale of honour and courage in the face of infinite danger, greed and deceit, The Guardians of the Halahala is a fantastical journey into a time of myth and legend. 

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