We got talking to Durjoy Datta about how aspiring writers can get rid of writer's block, exercise their brain cells, and break into the publishing industry for a career as a writer.
One of India's bestselling romance authors Durjoy Datta launched a new book on Thursday celebrating love on the occasion of Valentine's Day, and we chose the occasion to pick his brain on how aspiring writers can deal with writer's block and keep churning the writing wheels.
Breaking into the publishing industry is most definitely easier now than it was before -- now that popular authors like Chetan Bhagat, Ravinder Singh and Durjoy Datta have paved the way. But when it comes to sticking to the bestseller list, it's a different ball game.
Thanks to his experience, Durjoy had a few choice tips for aspiring authors looking to build a career as an author. Here's what we discovered from him on the sidelines of the launch of his 20th book in just 12 years - Pocketful O' Stories 2.0.
How to get rid of writer's block
Every writer -- whether established or not -- faces writer's block. And Durjoy is no different. He started off writing as a blogger and it is his blog posts that he majorly used in his first book 'Of Course I Love You'. And it is his blog that comes to his rescue when he feels stuck.
"I feel the need to go back to blogging at times, because when you hit a writer's block, it's good to write about other themes to try to navigate that writer's block," he explains.
What else can aspiring writers do to get their brain juice flowing?
"I just read a lot. When you read, you are constantly learning new things about storytelling, and you might discover new things that you want to try in your writing," he says.
"And then when you start writing in that direction, you might junk it ultimately or you may not - but you have found a way out of the writer's block," he adds.
Should you write for your readers or for yourself?
When Durjoy Datta first started to write, his readers were mainly college students. But as the years pass as his readers grow up, get married and have kids, they start relating with stories that tell the tales of the circumstances that they are facing. And Durjoy knows this.
"When I see how my readers have grown up but still like to read my books, I realize that I have kind of been able to keep up with the standards of what they consider to be a good book," says Durjoy.
He however says that he likes to write what he himself relates to instead of focusing on what the reader wants.
"I write what I want to write about, and my readers relate to some bits of it, and they will feel entertained when they read it. So I have stopped trying to keep track of exactly what my readers want," he says.
"Whatever story interests me at that point of time, I write about that," he adds.
Perhaps it is this passion for writing what he loves that attracts readers to Durjoy Datta's books in large numbers.
What Durjoy Datta likes to read and how it's affected his writing
"I started with the usual suspects when I was a kid - Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl etc. But then my parents said I should read literary fiction, and they introduced me to Salman Rushdie, Jhumpa Lahiri etc. But I used to say that I am young and I want to read more thrillers like John Grisham," he laughs.
"Eventually I moved to fantasy like Harry Potter and Tolkien I have read all of it, and it is very hard to pick just one favourite author as there are a bunch of writers that I like," he says.
It is the books we read that influence us in the way we write, but Durjoy found himself very taken in by whichever author he read.
"When you get introduced to literary fiction, you think - okay, this is how I have to write. But when I am reading someone else at another time, the preference of writing style changes," he says.
When did Durjoy Datta first think of becoming a writer?
"It was when the commercial book scene started to bloom in India that I thought I could write," Durjoy says, recalling the time Chetan Bhagat became popular and commercial fiction slowly started to fill the shelves of bookshops, catering to readers who might not have the tenacity to read literary fiction, but would love to read something more low-key and relatable.
"When Chetan Bhagat came in, a lot of other writers also came in and they started to sell thousands of copies. So that made me feel like perhaps this is something I can match with when it comes to writing style," explains Durjoy.
He talks about how Indian commercial fiction in English didn't really exist before this time.
"Before that we had writers in regional languages, but not as such in English. There was a big vacuum, and I realised this is a space you can write in and get published in," he says.
He tells us how this emerging commercial fiction space allowed him to believe he can write and get published as well even though he is no Jhumpa Lahiri or Salman Rushdie.
"And if you really notice, there isn't much difference between commercial fiction in India and commercial fiction abroad - the names and settings are different but not much else," Durjoy adds.
He had pursued Engineering followed by an MBA, but his passion for writing kept pulling him towards anything to do with books. He was even associated with a publishing house Grapevine earlier but parted ways when he realised the immense pressure of having to worry about the careers of five other authors apart from himself.
In the end, with the fast rising commercial fiction scene, he cast aside his doubts about making a living out of writing and took the decision to singularly pursue a career as an author.
Writing for TV vs writing books
There are other ways of becoming a professional writer too - writing for television is one route to take if you want a career as a writer.
Durjoy Datta has written screenplays for several TV shows like 'Sadda Haq', 'Ek Veer Ki Ardaas...Veera', 'Million Dollar Girl', and 'Kuch Rang Pyar Ke Aise Bhi' but the experience and the satisfaction quotient is very different.
"I like writing books because there is a sense of freedom there. Television writing is more dynamic in the sense that there are more players in the fray such as directors and producers," he says.
"It kind of constraints you, because a book is tailored to an audience but not to a great extent - because when you are writing a book, you also want that book to entertain yourself. But when you are writing for television, you want to entertain an audience and not yourself," Durjoy explains.
How can you become a better writer?
"You can attend writing workshops to become better, but the only way you can learn how to write is to read more books," Durjoy says.
"The biggest impulse to read another book is when you have just read one book," he says, explaining how easy-to-read commercial fiction can engage the youth and help them develop a reading habit which could eventually lead them to reading more complex work if they so choose.
"There have been so, so many books that have been written. If you have not read them to see how people have told their stories, then no one is going to hand you a sort of guidebook to becoming a better writer," he says.
"Also, it is not like if you teach a class of 30 students, all of them will go on to become bestselling writers. So, you have to learn it yourself," he says.
One piece of advice for aspiring authors: "Don't be in a hurry to publish your book, because there is a very, very little chance that you will be successful. Just write to entertain yourself and be satisfied with whatever you have written."
About Durjoy Datta's new book - a collection of tiny tales of romance
The second edition of Pocketful O' Stories -- tagged 2.0 - is a collection of 400 tiny tales on romance and love including around 15 by Durjoy - the number is the same as the number of sprays in the new Engage pocket perfume, in collaboration with which the book was launched.
Durjoy Datta launched the book 160 feet above ground in mid-air at 'Fly Dining' in Noida, a hanging restaurant giving visitors a unique dining experience - with mandatory harnesses!
In preparation for the book, ITC had rolled out a crowdsourcing campaign where people were asked to submit their tiny tales on romance keeping to 400 characters, and preferably with some twist or unexpected element - this meant that each story had to be fast, snappy and memorable.
This received an overwhelming response of more than 25,000 story submissions.
"The sort of selection procedure we followed was that we would read a bunch of stories, and the ones we used to remember after a week, we knew they needed to go in the book," says Durjoy, adding that some of the stories were so good that he knew he needed to up his writing game.
"It was a learning experience for me as well," he says.
We hope he keeps inspiring young readers and writers to write for love and keep their love for writing alive no matter what.
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