As you all know, 300 days is my debut novel. It all started when I was introduced to National Novel Writing Month (NaNOWriMo) in 2013. I was clueless back then. All I knew was I had a story in mind and it will look great in print. But in NaNo month all one has to do is put their head down and type away the 50000 words. I thought it would be easy. I have been always good at typing. I made very little errors. So it shouldn’t be a problem. Or so I thought. Typing down a project submission was different from penning a story. The story went beyond 50000 words and I had not finished the first draft. At that time, I didn’t even know what a first draft is. ( I know I should have googled. But I am from the tribe who does things first and then checks if we did it right).
When I finished typing the whole manuscript it went to one hundred and fifty thousand words. I was elated. I thought I had written the best ever novel that the English reading population will ever read. As an unusual occurrence, common sense kicked in. I sent my novel to an eminent beta reader in Delhi. I still feel sorry for her. The manuscript was raw and full of mistakes and I was full of hubris. She suggested me to hire an editor. Like all first time authors, I was not convinced. What will an editor know more than me about my book? I reasoned to myself. I started to work on the suggestions my beta reader gave me.
In doing so, since I am not good with diction et all, I have added several words to the existing mammoth manuscript. It will all be well, I told myself. One good thing about the Nano Wrimo is they have a great Facebook group, which eggs us, threaten us and plead us to work on our manuscript. I became friends with few of the members and started reading the manuscripts they were sharing in their Facebook Timeline.
I wanted to go into a cave and never return back. They were several steps polished than mine was, but still the writer friends of theirs who commented were able to polish it more. The excerpts would look fine to me, sometimes amazing. But there will still be comments about improving it. At first I was like “What is wrong with these people?”. Then I understood that what a community can do to an artist. A community of like minded people inspire the artist to new heights. I have experienced it first hand. I have seen so many people who quit such wonderful communities stating family pressure or because of the open criticism. I feel sorry for them. In one such community, I met Sridevi Datta. I call her Akka.
If there is a person who had read my manuscript more number of times than me, that would be Sridevi. She tirelessly read my 150000 words manuscript in a day to share the initial feedback and whatever happened after that felt like a dream. Ever since the day I approached her, I know I chose the right person because of her professionalism. There were several NDA documents she created for me for my safety. She kept sending revisions after revisions.
300 days is the story of a Tamil guy falling for a Telugu girl (There is a special place in hell for people who compare this with Two States). Sridevi, as she is from Andhra Pradesh, helped me correct the over enthusiastic literary freedom I took to describe Telugu people. She filled lot of plot holes and I do not even need to mention the number of grammatical errors she had to correct.
She knew the manuscript by heart so whenever I questioned her for taking away one of the sentences, she would remind me that it was redundant and it was already told in a different chapter. She was that thorough. And she tirelessly worked for whatever time it took to give me back my manuscript. She had cut more than 65000 words but still kept the story intact. I owe her a lot.
Over a period of time, I have received quite number of comments in blogs and appreciation for my short stories. But recently Sridevi once pinged me to appreciate after reading one of the short story I had published in this blog. I consider that as my biggest achievement.
Thank you Akka. You know my vocabulary. This is the best word I could find.
Editors are important for your work. Be it short film, Film, Novel, Novella or even a short story. I am listing two of my friends here apart from Sridevi whom I know has a passion for literature and spend most of their money and waking hours reading.
This person is such a voracious reader and a professional editor with ten years of experience.