Fiction has its own rhythms and its own seasons.
It took me five years to write my nonfiction book, Mantramala, but the time was mainly because of the complexity of the research and the difficulty in reading sources which had no English translations. However once the research was done, the book was not difficult to write.
My second book, on Success is in the editing stage, but now I am writing fiction and that’s a very different thing altogether. Fiction has its own cycles and they are nothing like non-fiction. While writing Mantramala my routine was regular, show up, write, take a break, write again, and call it a day. Every day for a year I knew my timings and my schedule.
Fiction turns all that on its head. You can show up and write, but the muse may be loitering on someone else’s page, or she may be out of the country entirely. There is no way to tell when she’ll show up – though she usually pops in when I am in the shower, giving me some great ideas just when I have nothing to write them on.
Schedules don’t work so well with fiction.
Stories begin in the land of mists and confusion. They begin as a thread or a hint or a quickly fading flash. Then you take the hint and try to flesh it out. Sometimes it happens, sometimes not. Sometimes you cannot see through the mists at all. Sometimes when you are doing other, more mundane things, a story emerges suddenly, like a butterfly from a cocoon, wings still wet but already shining with the promise of its adult beauty.
You cannot schedule its emergence. All you can do is dig deep roots by spending words as lavishly as grass. At some point the story comes alive, and suddenly, there’s a flower.
Even then there is no telling. Stories you may love can languish unread, and others you typed out in careless zest, may touch readers hearts. Who knows? The muse is unpredictable, erratic and usually late, but when you aspire to story you have no choice but to live by her seasons
I am working on long stories and writing flash fiction for the joy of it. Flash fiction is less than 1000 words or 500 or even 100. People often seem to think its easy writing a small piece, but it may be short but it is by no means small. A flash story is not an anorexic short story; it is a story in its own right, with all the attributes of story, like a beginning, a middle and an end. .
It’s satisfying while I take the months necessary to work on the longer stories.
Fiction has its own rules but also its own delights. Writing a story takes you into another zone, another realm and it’s hard to explain that to those who have never dealt with fiction. It’s a right brain – left brain thing. You have to make the shift from the analytic left to the creative right brain to write a story and in today’s world many people have forgotten how to make that shift.
Opening up is hard, being willing to let go is harder and allowing the very slim and almost invisible flashes of insight is harder still. For those who persist the rewards are great.
Fiction is primal, like the day dreams and imaginary friends you had as a child. Perhaps that is why it is so hard. It’s a thin as smoke wisp of story trying to make its way in a rock solid mundane and practical world.
Now that I am writing fiction there is no going back and I am finding my feet in a world I would not want any other way.