Monday, 23 July 2012

Guest Post: Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

Today I have romance writer, Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar, writing about the long journey her novel Love Comes Later took her on. It lasted nearly three years. Read on to find out what happened:

What would you do for love?

Movies, books, and television are full of scenes where parents ask to be substitutes for their children. Husbands for wives, friends for one another. We have come to see the ultimate act of love as surrendering one’s life for a lover, child, or co-worker as the ultimate in heroism. The Hunger Games begins with Katniss taking the place of her sister Primm in the despotic Games lottery.

Sacrifice is at the heart of all these grand gestures. And sacrifice is what is required if you want to become a writer. I’m not exaggerating. You may not live up the right to living but you might miss out on a few movies, birthday parties, dinners, hours of sleep.

Wait – you WILL miss out on social events, current events, personal hygiene. There’s not maybes about it.

When I began writing the manuscript that would become Love Comes Later, it began, as most flirtations do, with a few questions. I asked myself what certain characters would do if placed in a specific set of circumstances. I wrote on the weekends, mostly Saturdays, rarely in the evenings because I am a morning person.

I shared the book with beta readers. They gave me comments. A year went by. I went on to something else more urgent, but this book sat at the back of my mind.

I picked it up again, took it out for a spin in a window of free time. Back to the daily grind.

This cycle continued, and I was as errant with the manuscript as the worst girlfriend. I came back to it with the addiction of an addict.

At my wit’s end, unable to tell the story I had first thought of nearly two years ago, I hired the services of a professional counselor. In the book world known as an editor.

Another year as the editor went through page by page, scene by scene, line by line with me, threshing out the smallest details. Another round of beta reading. Cultural advisors corrected spelling; a research assistant went through the finer points of plausibility.

Then: the cover. Another round of hang-ups.  A capable designer who didn’t have a clue as to what I wanted; a static image unworthy of the book I’d slaved over. More delays.

The copy editor taking two weeks and catching inconsistencies like character names and pronouns; the dates for Ramadan, the summer Olympics which were all a backdrop for the story.
Was I tired? Yes. Did I want on move? You bet.

Had I fallen out of love with my story? Not in the least.

You see, in the same way you profess a commitment to a person, when you’re a writer who takes up the pen to brainstorm the first ideas for a story, you’re making that same commitment.

The story is utterly dependent on you for its life. And that’s why when three years of increasing intensity go by, the day before the release you’re late for lunch with friends, your husband is upset up with you, the computer won’t cooperate, but you must check the glossary one more time, and the paragraphs, before hitting send to the designer.

The day it launches you can do nothing but fall back against the pillows in relief.

That’s what it was like to write Love Comes Later. And that’s why we writers are a little bit crazy.

After all you have to be to fall in love, don’t you?

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