Serendipity and After/71 & Last Installment

a novel about publishing of a novel

Yesterday, as I wrote the last line of my installment, I was swamped by a strange sense of boredom and weariness. Suddenly, writing seemed like terrible, soul-crashing, nerve-shattering, and a litany of nonsense.

Never before I’ve had so much distaste, hatred and loathing for writing.

In my writing career (if you can call it a career at all), I have always had a roller-coaster ride. I have been publishing since my school days, short stories at first in my mother tongue, then switching on to features and articles to support myself by writing. Then as I began my medical practice, I found myself drifting away from writing, and in the thick of practice, I stopped writing altogether.

It had been almost a decade, and then I had that itch again. I tried to write a novel in Bengali, but it didn’t work. So I switched to writing the same novel in English. I found the words coming as if in torrent. It took me about five years to complete “Shadowland”. Then I pitched it to different agents who in their turn responded favorably and some of them got to read the entire manuscript. One of them wrote back, “You’re a solid writer, Mrinal. I don’t know why I’m rejecting you.” Yet another top-notch American agent said, “My editor friend says it’s too audacious for a debut novel.”

It was time for me to stop pitching.

The next phase was that of writing without trying to publish. I wrote two novellas during this period, They are in the hard-disc of my computer. My friend V. Ramaswamy read and liked one of these novellas and wanted to publish it in an online magazine. But who cares for an online magazine?

It was a long hiatus — about sixteen years. I was a confirmed failed writer. Then this thing happened. A remarkable lady (a scientist) — I didn’t know her — happened to read the manuscript and liked it. She read it though in one sitting without doing any work the whole day. She wrote a review of sort and sent it to Ramaswamy. A publisher read it. Things moved onward from this point.

It was like having a fresh lease of life as a writer. I started my second novel “Serendipity and After” at this point. I began it as a fun experiment with real characters in it, but it turned to be serious. Long-forgotten memories began to resurface. I began to write about them in a crazy but evocative way. Some people liked it. Writing literary fiction on Medium is never a good idea, but it had some traction.

But it was a faulty project. One new chapter every single day is good as a brag, but it’s hard to maintain. I went without a hitch till /60. Then I was seized with fear and apprehension. One night I was panicky not knowing what to churn out the next morning. Another night I woke up late at night, suddenly finding out the next topic for my novel.

I was never short of material, but it was a novel and I was every bit careful about each installment being part of a whole unified, indivisible narrative. I was stretching myself just too much.

I made mistake by publishing it every single day. I should have published it once a week. But as a person, I’m not really practical and even at 63, I have fascination for risky, troublesome adventure. And then, would publishing once a week have such an impact?

But I can’t continue any longer. Or more precisely, I can continue but you will miss that verve and vibrancy.

Writing this online novel has been a draining experience for me. I feel faded and jaded. I have a burn-out. I have lost wight.

So I’m quitting — with a sense of defeat though. But seventy one days at a stretch— and posting each day more or less at the same time — are not a joke. I hope you would appreciate it and forgive me.

Arin Basu, Tessa, SF Ali, mark-john clifford, Gutbloom. Raj Kishor Kannoujea and others for their support.