Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Shivaya

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Apr 12, 2013

How To Write A Book? - A Serious Guide for Aspiring Authors

How to write novels and books…
I have read Milan Kundera’s (Czech Republic's most recognized living writer, who has lived in exile in France since 1975, who has been nominated numerous time for Noble Prize) most famous book ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ almost two decades ago. And then recently I came across his two other books ‘Testament Betrayed’ and ‘TheArt of Novel’, which I have been reading last week. Interestingly, both the books were kind of a powerful DIY of ‘Novel Writing’ which gave me an idea to create a kind of Guide for “Writing novels” for the aspiring authors based on his selected thoughts from both the books.
Milan Kundera
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I hope this will help and inspire serious writers and aspiring authors to reflect on their art of writing and help in creating a master piece.


What is a Novel?
 “A book is product of a self, other than the self we manifest in our habits, in our social life, in our vices. The writer’s true self is manifested in his books alone” - Proust

And Milan Kundera (MK) says in the Book - The book of Laughter and Forgetting, through one of his character, Banaka, “You know the novel is fruit of human illusion. The illusion of the power to understand others. But what do we know of one another? …all anyone can do is give a report on oneself… anything else is a lie”

“…every one dreams of writing a book to tell about his unique and inimitable self,… no one listens to any one else, everyone writes, and each of them writes the way rock is danced to: alone, for himself, focused on himself yet making the same motions as all the others”.

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But somehow I tend to agree more with MK’s thought from his book ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ that the novel is not the author’s confession; it is an investigation of human life in the trap the world has become. As MK says that a novel is often nothing but a long quest for some elusive definitions, which for some reason I believe is what an aspiring author is searching for, if not an established writer. 

According to a well known metaphor, the novelist demolishes the house of his life and uses its bricks to construct another house: that of his novel. And the aspiring author has this junoon (Passion) to do that over and over again, through each one of their attempts to share their dream house. Though, as MK relates in Testament Betrayed, “…every one dreams of writing a book to tell about his unique and inimitable self,… no one listens to anyone else, everyone writes, and each of them writes the way rock (music) is danced to: alone, for himself, focused on himself yet making the same motions as all the others”

How To Write A Novel?
MK advises that the composition (the architectural organization of work) should not be seen as some pre-existent matrix, loaned to an author for him to fill out with invention; the composition should itself be an invention, an invention that engages all the author’s originality. The novel “Life Is Elsewhere” was begun with this working hypothesis, a definition I (MK) set down in my notebook: “The poet is a young man whose mother leads him to display himself to a world he cannot enter.”

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(Nowadays) novel is too much weighed down by technique”, by the conventions that do the author’s work for him: present a character, describe a milieu, bring the action into a historical situation, fill time in the character’s lives with superfluous episodes; each shift of scene calls for new exposition, description, explanation. MK’s own imperative is “Janacekian”: to rid the novel of the automatism of novelistic technique, of novelistic verbalism; to make it dense.

‘Making a character “alive” means: getting to the bottom of his existential problem. Which in turn means: getting to the bottom of some situation, some motifs, even some words that shape him. Nothing more’. And MK goes on to share a valuable technique of Kafka, for aspiring authors...

“Because apprehending the real world is part of the definition of the novel: but how to both apprehend it and at the same time engage in an enchanting game of fantasy? How be rigorous in analyzing the world and at the same time be irresponsibly free at playful reveries. How to bring these two incompatible purposes together? Kafka managed to solve this enormous puzzle. He cut a breach in the wall of plausibility (Not in order to escape the real world – the way romantics did, but to apprehend it better); the breach through which many others followed him, each in his own way: Fellini, Marquez, Fuentes, Rushdie…  and other, others”

Theme – The Wisdom of the Novel
According to MK, “A theme is an existential inquiry. And increasingly I realize that such an inquiry is, finally, the examination of certain words, theme-words. Which leads me to emphasize: A novel is based primarily on certain fundamental words… In The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, the row (words) goes: Forgetting, Laughter, Angels, Litost, Border. Over the course of the novel, those five principal words are analyzed, studies, defined, redefined and thus transformed into categories of existence. The pillars of The Unbearable Lightness of Being: Weight, Lightness, soul, body, the grand march, shit, kitsch, compassion, vertigo, strength, weakness”.

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“When Tolstoy sketched the first Draft of Anna Karenina, Anna was a most unsympathetic woman, and her tragic end was entirely deserved and justified. The final version of the novel is very different, but I (MK) do not think his moral ideas changed in the meantime; I would say, rather, that in the course of writing, he was listening to another voice that that of his personal moral conviction. He was listening to what I would like to call the wisdom of the novel. Every true novelist listens for that supra-personal wisdom, which explains why great novels are always a little more intelligent than their authors. Novelists who are more intelligent than their books should go into another line of work.

And in the End…
Milan Kundera (MK) gives some great tips on creating a master piece…

All great works (precisely because they are great) contain something un-achieved.

When you reach the end of a book you should still find it possible to remember the beginning. Otherwise the novel loses shape; its “architectonic clarity” is clouded.

Novelists who are more intelligent than their books should go into another line of work.

And the best thought … that I personally loved reading…
Every novel, like it or not, offers some answer to the question: What is human existence, and wherein does poetry lie?

Hope you have liked this Guide to Writing Novel... leave a comment, if you like, so that I can share more of my books and Help Guides... 
नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya

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