It’s a month after National Novel Writing Month and many writers are worn down. Of course, as writers, it is hard to take breaks from our work. One of the biggest pieces of advice we get is to never stop writing. That is how we get better. However, becoming a better writer is more than that. Brown Girl Magazine has collected writing tips from a few of our favorite South Asian writers. They each answered the question:
“What advice would you give someone who wants to better their writing?”
Adil Dad, Author of rise
“It’s truly about the things we consume, they have a direct impact on what comes out of you, so in that case we have to be mindful on what we read, eat, watch and hear. If what goes in is incredible, what comes out won’t be too far off.”
Meena Kandasamy, Author of When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife
“Different people work at different rhythms, so obviously while something like NaNoWriMo can be great for some people, others might feel a huge sense of disappointment that they didn’t pull off even a half of the word count. I think the main idea is that thinking of your writing every day and working on it is an important part of NaNoWriMo—and in that sense, I can see why it would be beneficial to anyone who undertakes the challenge.
I personally would advise that people who are going into the kind of long-form, committed writing that a novel is, spend a lot of time preparing, researching, outlining and working on the structure of their book before they begin to do the actual writing.
This sort of basic groundwork would mean that a book is not abandoned midway because it was made-up-as-one-went-along, or because it lacks momentum, or because one doesn’t know how to write their way forward.”
Nisha Sharma, Author of My So-Called Bollywood Life
“My advice is to keep reading. The more you read the better of a writer you’ll be.”
Liz Jaikaran, Author of Trauma: a collection of short stories
“Trust your voice and write what you are thinking. When the words we write go through filters of doubt and censorship, they are less compelling, less meaningful, and are devoid of authentic thought. While it seems simple, this is a difficult task, especially for South Asian writers facing community commentary in response to their written product. Write about difficult topics despite what that commentary might look like. Don’t limit yourself to skirt hems of sanitized expression. Write about sex. Create complicated characters. Assert bold opinions. Without being true to your literary voice, you are doing a massive disservice to the creative driving force that makes you good at what you do. So just write it. Trust your creative voice.”
Farhana Shaikh, Editor of The Asian Writer
“That’s a tough question. I think I always go back to this bit of advice though: Read. Read. Read. Firstly, reading will help you to understand the joy books and stories have on us all as readers. Secondly, reading will help you to understand how language and stories work as well as the tricks writers have in their toolbox.”
Rajiv Mohabir, Author of The Cowherd’s Son
“No one else owns your story—it’s yours. Claim it. Wear it like kajal or too much perfume. You own the pace at which you write too. Write to make sense of happenings (whether poetry, fiction, or nonfiction) for yourself first, then others. You should love your story. Write against erasure. Be as unapologetically brown as you want to be. Fuck anyone and everyone who thinks you shouldn’t be.”
Sara Bawany, Author of (w)holehearted
“I would tell them not only to write often but to read a lot. Read poetry, read the news, read books, read shampoo bottles and most importantly, read people. There is so much knowledge out there, both rational and emotional that we don’t take advantage of which could turn into works of art if only we looked a little deeper.”
Niti Majethia, Author of Eunoia
“I’m a believer of practical advice, because everybody usually gives philosophical advice.
I’d definitely say that don’t censor yourself when you are writing your first draft. Let it flow, let it take whatever direction it wants to take… Just go with it. Don’t start editing when you’re writing. After you write that uncensored first draft, take a break for like a day or two, and then get to editing. That’s what works best.
Also: You have to be really thick-skinned if you want to make it as a writer. You HAVE to be good at dealing with rejections. And you have to be honest with yourself, and try to be kind and empathetic because the type of person you are really reflects in anything you write. Also not shy away from your uniqueness, instead use it as a tool to further write more intrinsically and poignantly!”