Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A novel writing approach

I had almost forgotten about the great Chetan Bhagat. Only yesterday when I was at my relatives’ and saw that he has started coming in TV ads did I think of writing this post. He, I think, should be the most well-known novelist in India. If you ever decide on writing a novel, here are some points which you can learn from his success:

Target the youth.

Include the name of elite institute(s): Adding an elite institute’s name in the punch line of your book if not the title usually helps in the sale of the book. If your fertile mind cannot come up with such a title or a punch line, one of your characters can be a student or an alumnus, though this would greatly reduce the effect. The reason is, this gets you a set of assured readers, largely comprising of the candidates preparing for the entrance. You can see this approach has been followed by:
Anything for you Mam- An IITian’s love story
Five Point Someone- What not to do at IIT!
Zero Percentile: Missed IIT Kissed Russia

Keep it small, cheap and simple: It very important to keep the novel small. The youth which is to be targeted is generally busy in other amusing pursuits and doesn’t have time and patience to read pothis. Also, the language of the novel should not be abstruse; of course there should be some unnecessary GRE words to prove writer’s command over the language here and there, but just in the right amount. Ignorant Indian writers like Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie etc. overlook this point while writing their books- there are a lot of other points also which they overlook- and this amounts to a considerable decrease in the sales. And of course, the novel should be cheap, the youth should not mind buying it over burrowing it. (Don’t try to go for international readers also and get a foreign publisher.)
All Chetan Bhagat ‘s are for almost Rs. 100.

Write in English: Ignore it when people say that language is just a mode of communication. It isn’t in India. However good a command you have over your mother tongue, you should stick to English. Indians in general believe that English is the language of the learned and reading English novels is a good way of showing that one is learned which, at times might be the only reason for reading the book. However, when your novel is popular enough, you can get it translated to other regional languages and you would see a flurry of sales.
Five Point Someone was translated to Hindi and had a record breaking sale of 30000 copies in one month. (while 'Raag Darbari' is unheard of, :()

Write about appealing, general topics: Do you remember what the great MBA Chetan Bhagat’s novels are about?
Five Point Someone: College life; IIT (IIT/IIM sells better than IAS (heard of ‘English, August’?!))
1 Night @ the Call Center: Call center
The 3 Mistakes of My Life: Cricket
2 States: Romance
See how cleverly the subjects are chosen? Has he ever written about anything esoteric?! He never fails to add a love affair- if the whole novels itself isn’t about it. Romance is an indispensable ingredient to the novel.

Promote controversy, but only a little: It should not be fatal like it was in Salman Rushdie’s case, but a little bit of it helps. For starters, you can try having regionalist insults which can be covered up in the preface or a post-script.

Get an MBA: Getting an MBA of course helps a lot. There are a lot of other factors, that help selling your novel, which yours truly cannot comprehend and can only be conceived by an MBA.

The post is not an attempt at defaming CB, I am just awe-struck by his systematic approach to sell his novels. It’s just a collection of observations made by my deranged mind.