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This is part 7 in a series by Tim Gurung about his life as a Gurkha soldier-turned-businessman-turned-writer. Previous entries in the series can be found here.
By the time my Gurkha book came to the market, I had written over a dozen novels and was writing more. After the international success of the Gurkha book, I took all my previous books off the market, and they won't be seeing the light of day unless I find a new publisher.
Although I have written 20 books so far, I only have the Gurkha book (various editions from different publishers) in the market, but new books are on the way. I sometimes feel embarrassed to say I have written so many books. Writing has never been a problem for me and that's ample assurance for me, for nobody should be a writer who has trouble with writing.
Writing is purely subjective and the critical point is finding your readers, for writers without readers are nothing. On top of talent, hardship, and perseverance, you also need luck and opportunity to be a successful writer. Unless you are a former US president, a member of the British royal family, or a celebrity with millions of followers on social media, you will have to work your butt off, churning out story after story until the world starts paying any attention. Still, success is not guaranteed and you might even die before your writing can attract a substantial number of readers. It sucks, I know, but that's the way it is, so either you quit or toil on. The choice is always yours.
Writing is a marathon, not a hundred-meter dash. It is also unglamorous and a dying habit, simply because reading forces people to think. Even worse, not many people can eke out a living from writing. That's why people take writing as a side job or a hobby, and most writers are semi-retired, like me.
Therefore, unless you love writing, have an unwavering passion for it, and can afford to take a break from your daytime job, you should only try it as a side job and build up your career from there, one step at a time. I suggest you start earlier and write regularly, for it takes a very long time to become a decent writer. Above all, you must be able to write – an innate talent of a storyteller.
Although I started late, my love for writing was never in doubt. I also knew that I could write. However, writing in a language other than your mother tongue can be tricky. It was only after my fourth book that I was able to quickly draft a sentence in English. I still have to be careful when using big, uncommon words in my writing. I prefer simple and straightforward writing with relatively short and compact sentences and paragraphs. I always skip reading books with long and tedious paragraphs. I am completely against using big words and complicated sentences in writing for their own sake, for we are not showing off our writing skills or taking an examination. We are telling a story. If a reader constantly needs to consult a dictionary to read your book, you cannot blame them for closing and throwing your book away.
Modern writing requires writers to write in the active voice, leave out adjectives, and cut out unnecessary words. Prominent writers suggest the second draft be 10 percent smaller than the first draft, with the first draft there just to let the story out. In a standard publishing process, books get edited at least four times before being published with editors doing great work. Although you don't have to worry much about minor mistakes or excesses, significant holes in the plot and sub-plots have to be resolved before submission. As a writer, you should have a general idea of what's missing in your story.
I am also against being involved in activism as a writer, although we all have subjects close to our hearts. For, I believe that writers shouldn't be restricted to any single race, creed, society, and even country; we should belong to humanity and strive to work for the world's wellbeing. But of course, the writers' desire alone is not enough; the world also has to embrace and support them, and those writers who get to work on such noble deeds are the luckiest ones.
The most important lessons I have learned as a writer are two. First, write what you know and write it from your heart. Second, read a lot and write a lot. If you don't read, you will never know what good writing is, and without regular writing, you can never become a good writer. It's as simple as that. And since you cannot write about everything, you must choose a subject that inspires you and make it the central theme of your writing. I read more than a hundred books a year, often multiple books at a time. I have books in my bedroom, living room, and the office. And I write for three to four hours every weekday. But since I write only in the office, I don't write on weekends. If I am not writing or reading, I am thinking about writing all my waking hours. Writing should be treated as a full-time job for any writer.
The central themes of my writing are social and global issues. And I apply a three P policy – passion, patience, and perseverance – in my writing, which has been the main mantra of my success.
I also like to research my subjects in great detail, talk to various people, and visit the field, if possible. I have always written for a reason. For instance, my Gurkha book was prompted by racism and discrimination, the Hong Kong Nepali community, the afterlife, and the 2015 Nepal earthquake.
My next big project is a book about Nepal, and I will come to Nepal the moment the pandemic allows me. I planned to stay in Nepal for at least three to four months and talk to as many people as possible. I want these people to be from the very top to the very bottom to get a general idea of their views of the country. I will then write the book, taking as long as I need to make it the best gift that I could give to my people and country. After that, I will slow down and try my best to enjoy the miracles that life has to offer.
I have achieved much more than I had ever anticipated as a writer. I write for the love of writing, for a true writer never writes for money or fame. If people read what I write then that's a bonus. If not, well, I did my best, and I won't die with regrets. That's already more than I have ever asked for.
In the next and final part of this series, I will talk about the biggest achievement of my life, which has nothing to do with the things I’ve discussed so far.
Tim I Gurung TIM I GURUNG is a novelist, an ex-Gurkha, author of Ayo Gorkhali, an acclaimed book about the Gurkhas. He lives in Hong Kong.