Steps on writing your manuscript by noted author Usha Narayanan

Author Usha Narayanan


From a seed of a thought to finally writing down the manuscript! How do you germinate and develop the idea and finally go about writing and completing your story? The step-by- step approach.

When you drive down a deserted mountain road, you catch fleeting glimpses of mossy paths and roughly hewn steps that lead somewhere. But where? What lies beyond? An ancient temple, a lotus pond, or perhaps the ruins of a haunted village? Writing a novel is just as exciting an exploration, where you come upon paths untraveled and characters undiscovered. Where will your destiny take you?

Here is an outline of the process I followed in writing my latest novels ― ‘Pradyumna: Son of Krishna’ and ‘The Secret of God’s Son’. Maybe you can develop your own version of it if you undertake a writing journey.

1. First, delve deep into our epics and puranas that are host to gigantic characters, mega conflicts and dizzying worlds. Pay particular attention to dramatic characters that play pivotal roles in determining fate, perhaps those that are relatively unknown. Make a shortlist and learn all you can about them.

2. The next step is more intuitive, at least in my experience. Some characters seem to call out to you with their enchanting, exhilarating presence. It’s like falling in love! I always liked the name ‘Pradyumna’ which has such a splendid ring to it. The hero of my first novel, ‘The Madras Mangler’, was named Vir Pradyumna. When I wrote that thriller, I had not even heard of Krishna’s son! When I came upon Pradyumna in our puranas, I was captivated by his splendour. I soon discovered that he had lived many dramatic lives. I began to connect the dots and drawing lines where none existed before. The god and goddess of love separated by destiny, a mammoth battle between good and evil, a universe spanning swarga and naraka ― there was no looking back. So look for your own special character who sets your pulse racing, for you will have to live with him or her for many long hours!

3. What next? Research your chosen characters even further. Do they have past lives, troubled relationships, flawed personalities? These are the possibilities you can explore, using your imagination to fill in the gaps. To me, the thrill lies in mixing myth and fictionin such a way that the reader is unable to discover where one ends and the other begins.

4. What is your protagonist’s quest or purpose in life? Who are those who help or hinder him? Jot down broad plot points, then come up with twists and turns, thrills and spills. Don’t forget that you need a spectacular finale that leaves your reader spellbound and breathless with excitement.

5. Start writing. Remember that the setting and the language need to be consistent. Are you going to transport your characters into the present world or transport yourself and your reader into an ancient universe? Enlarge your canvas, unleash your zest. There’s nothing impossible in your fantasy world. Intensify emotions and actions, bring the different strands together for that final catharsis, that explosive climax. Write and rewrite, plot and re-plot. To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, ‘Sit at your computer and bleed.’

Are you ready now for your own quest, my friend? Good luck to you! And don’t forget to leave a few lines about my books after you read them. I’m waiting!

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