Things I wish I had known before I started writing – Renita D’Silva

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By Renita D’Silva

Since being published I have met and talked to many authors and have discovered that there are as many different ways to write as there are writers, no one way being better than the other. Some writers plan, others begin writing with just the first sentence or only the title in their head. Some writers need to know the ending before they can begin whereas others, myself among them, don’t know where the story is going or how it will resolve itself until they write the very last word.

I started writing because I never had enough to read. I fell in love with stories at the age of six when my father gifted me with my first books – Andersen and Grimm fairy tales. But there weren’t enough story books to feed my voracious appetite in the small Indian village where I grew up. The books that were available in the lone library had pages missing and it was frustrating beyond belief to bond with the characters, get involved in their lives, only to lose part of their journey. And so, on monsoon nights when rain drummed on the tiles and mosquitoes hovered in the thick, dream-infested, snore-punctured air, I made up my own stories. They initially involved characters from the books I was reading and later, when I got bolder, characters of my own creation. I discovered the freedom, the joy, of losing myself in my head, of becoming one with the characters I was crafting, of inhabiting the nooks and crannies of the world I had devised.

What to write about:

Everybody is different. Everyone has a story to tell. Your story is your interpretation of and your take on the world around you.

I am fascinated by family relationships, the secrets we keep from those we love, the deep and convoluted bonds of love that can so quickly turn into hate and the desire for revenge and retribution. The tangled web of lies we weave in the course of our lives and relationships, nursing secrets that nestle coiled tight within, threatening to strike those we love, causing havoc. And so this is what I write about.

I think as writers, if we are able to conjure some emotion in the reader, whether anger, fear, love or empathy for our characters, or on behalf of our characters, we have succeeded in telling our stories.

Road to publication:

Not easy, but it will happen. The published writer is the one who has kept on trying.

When I started out, I did not know any publishers, agents or authors. So, when I penned ‘The End’ on my first draft, I googled what to do next. The one suggestion that stood out, that was reiterated many times, advised new authors to get a copy of The Writers and Artists Yearbook and send off their manuscript to agents who represented books like theirs. And that is what I did. But I was impatient and sent the manuscript off before it was the best it could be. I got some very positive feedback with a few agents requesting the full manuscript but they all came back with, ‘Get back to us when you have worked on it.’ So I worked on it and sent it off again and this time they said it was good but that they were not taking on new authors due to the recession. I had all but given up when I saw an ad for Bookouture in Mslexia. And so I sent my manuscript off to Bookouture. And they said yes!

What I would have done differently:

1) If doing it again, I would work on my manuscript, polish it until it was the best it could be before sending it off, to save myself a lot of heartache and rejection.

2) I would research the market – send my book to agents and publishers who were looking for submissions in my genre and not willy nilly to anyone who was accepting submissions.

What I would tell authors starting out now:

Believe in yourself and keep trying. Easy to say, I know, especially after you have experienced the bone-crushing low of rejection. But… the published author is someone who has picked himself up after each rejection and persevered. With the advent of the e-book and Indie publishing, there has never been a better time to be an author. It only takes one publisher to say yes and they are waiting just around the corner.

When I was sending out my manuscript, I get rejected quite a few times because the ‘Indian Fiction market was saturated’. My understanding is that publishing trends come and go and at the time of submitting, according to some publishers, Indian Fiction was going out of fashion. But, after persevering and keeping on sending my book out, I did eventually get published. I was given this piece of advice and it kept me going, ‘If you have a story to tell and believe in it and love it, then others will too, regardless of genre and trends.’

Renita D’Silva loves stories, both reading and creating them. Her short stories have been published in The View from Here, Bartleby Snopes, this zine, Platinum Page, Paragraph Planet among others and have been nominated for the Pushcart prize and the Best of the Net anthology. She is the author of Monsoon Memories, The Forgotten Daughter, The Stolen Girl, A Sister’s Promise, A Mother’s Secret and A Daughter’s Courage.


  1. Dolphi D'Silva

    June 8, 2017 at 11:41 am

    Writing is a gift and only a few people have it. Those who have the gift will, somehow, will find a platform where they will be discovered.
    The story of Renita’s (my niece) journey to discovery will echo in the heart of every aspiring writer. She started the journey without a chart in hand and finally made it, made it big.
    A very inspiring article, notable for its simplicity and authenticity.

    • renitadsilva

      June 8, 2017 at 5:30 pm

      Thanks so much Uncle Dolphi for your wonderful words.

      • perdita hilda d silva

        June 9, 2017 at 12:00 am

        Am so so proud of my daughter who has achieved so much by her imagination and very loving character.God bless Rennu.

  2. chrisbabu

    June 17, 2017 at 6:06 am

    “I was given this piece of advice and it kept me going, ‘If you have a story to tell and believe in it and love it, then others will too, regardless of genre and trends.’”

    I love this advice. I’ve been told the market was “saturated” more times than I can count. The market is never saturated with wonderful stories! Thank you for this thoughtful post.

    • renitadsilva

      June 18, 2017 at 7:01 pm

      Thanks so much Chris, for reading and taking the time to leave this message. I am so looking forward to reading The Initiation! What a wonderful premise! Cannot wait!

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