April 9, 2014

Of Luck and Meeting the Right People

Dear M,

Frankly, I wonder how authors like Hemingway or Virginia Woolf or even Rushdie got away with their writing. Their writings must have fallen to several hands and must have been rejected, over and over. I don't see how else it can be.

I wasn't impressed by any of these authors when I started reading them. (They're lucky I wasn't their agent.) The first page of Midnight's Children surprised me - is this how the world famous book begins? I had to struggle past a few pages (which I did only because the author was well-known and respected) to become truly hooked to it. Same with Hemingway. I became his fan only after reading The Old Man and The Sea. That was something I could put my money on. But that was one of the books he wrote after he became The Hemingway. That was the book that led him to the Nobel.

And Virginia Woolf? Just picture myself taking the first few pages of her book (Mrs Dalloway, for instance) and approaching a publisher, claiming to be the author. Assume also that the publisher has never read Woolf. I am sure she would throw the MS to the trash. This is not a story, she would tell me. This is like a blog where you can write disjointed stuff and make no sense whatsoever. I am looking for a story that has a plot and does not wander all over the place like this does. Give me something that people would read.

The way I see it, someone was impressed enough to give them a chance. They were lucky to get noticed. They had met the right person at the right time. Or maybe they started out writing stories with traditional style plots and sequence, and then once they were accepted, they were able to experiment with their styles.

Which once again proves that we cannot afford to give up. If we have to get somewhere, we've got to keep walking.


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  1. What makes a book successful is a mystery partly, as Umberto Eco said once. But of course there's an element of luck and a lot of coincidences plus the support of the right people - recipe for success.

    However, Hemingway, Woolf and Rushdie all have a touch of the extraordinary about their writing.

    1. Yes, their extraordinary writing that eventually captivates you. It takes a while for their styles to grow on you, I think. At least that was my experience.