Learning the writer’s craft at the Emirates Lit Fest

If you visit author Marina Lewycka on a day she is writing expect to find her in her nightgown with the laptop in her bed. For that is the deal that she has with herself to not get dressed unless she has finished her share of writing for the day. Fellow author Louise Doughty on the other hand has to step out of her house and her domestic  pulls to a café or a library to get down to writing. Two authors and two different ways of working. For me it was an interesting peep into the life of authors as I understood how each one of us works differently. This revelation happened during a talk at the recently concluded Emirates Airline Literature Fest as part of a discussion called The Novelist’s Craft.

Both Marina and Louise are bestselling authors based in the UK with several books to their credit. Marina is of Ukranian descent and was born in a refugee camp in Germany and later moved to England. She spent most of her life trying to become a writer until 2005 when she tasted success with A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian. This academic sounding title is in reality a witty entertaining book about what happens when an old Ukranian widower falls for a voluptuous Russian gold digger. Her penchant for witty book titles continued with Two Caravans (2007) and We are All Made of Glue (2009).

Equally acclaimed is Louise, a novelist, playwright and critic. She has authored six novels, her recent work is called Whatever You Love, which has been shortlisted for the 2010 Costa Novel Prize. She was herself a judge at the 2008 Man Booker Prize for fiction.

The entire event had interesting insights for aspiring writers. Here are some of the things I learnt from the event:

  1. Writing is 10 per cent inspiration and 90 per cent perspiration. That means you got to write, write and write more to excel in this craft.
  2. Before writing a novel it is fine if you can only think of the beginning and the end of your book as you can build on the rest of it as you write.
  3. It is recommended to get your work reviewed by a like-minded group (aspiring writers) rather than taking advice from friends and family who might not be able to tell you good from bad.
  4. There is no end to reviewing your own work though it is important.
  5. Most writers write from their personal experiences. That means each one of us has at least one book in us waiting to be told to the world. Heart-warming and inspiring isn’t that!
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