Interview: Bragadeesh Prasanna, Novelist

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Bragadeesh Prasanna, author of 300 Days, is a beloved member of the writing group WRITERS’ INK, which I moderate in Chennai. Recently, he completed the first draft of a short novel called Waterboard, a 46000 word novel in the span of 18 days! Here’s a peek into his writing habits and methodology:

Can you tell us how you wrote a first draft in such a short time? This is even better than NaNoWriMo where people aim to write 50000 words in 30 days! Did you write consistently every day? Or did you have ups and downs?

Waterboard happened out of the blue. I had lost some of my memories and was totally dependent on few people to tell me what is what. I had been thinking about different scenarios which could happen in future, if I don’t rectify it. That was how Waterboard happened. Writing is therapeutic to me. I was going through one of the toughest phase in my life last August and the only solace I had was writing. I wrote every day and I didn’t care about the word count. Some days I clocked 10K words and some day, just 800 words. Sprints helped too.

 What is your fav time to write?

5.30 to 7.30 in the morning works for me. I do my morning pages first and then start working on the word document. Somehow the words flowed this time and there were no hiccups

 Do you use only laptop to write? Did you take backup every day?

Yes I use only laptop. I send email to myself after my two hour writing session. Partially because I could open and read it in office or in my mobile whenever I had time.

 Any favorite writing rituals that specially works for you?

Long walks. It may sound narcissistic. There is a speech assistant in iPhones. I’d convert the document to epub and feed it to ibooks and then I would start my walk in the evening, usually 4Kms, listening to it. I sometimes changed the whole chapters, sometimes I liked what I wrote. But the walks helped a lot. And the artist’s way morning pages do help. I am not doing anything in artist’s way except for the morning pages. But it brings a good flow.

 How do you make sure no one interrupts you when you are writing?

Advantages of being a male. I lost my phone, so that was a blessing. Plus when I am at laptop my parents as well as colleagues don’t disturb me. They know I cannot bear distractions until 9 AM and so they respect my mental space, I guess (which is great!). Till then dad supplied unlimited coffees and generally encouraged me.

Did the entire first draft come to you in one single flow? Did you have a outline beforehand?

I really wanted to outline. But I couldn’t. I just wrote it in a single flow. Sometimes it was frustrating because I knew there was something interesting coming up in the following chapters but I had to type fast and I couldn’t wait to get there. This was weird but good weird.

What do you do when you get stuck? Usually, people leave the WIP alone for some days and then revisit it again… clearly you didn’t employ this method. What’s your secret?

When I get stuck, I read. I have a bunch of books in my mobile and laptop just so that I can get inspiration. For this novel, the movie The Eternal sunshine of the Spotless Mind ran in loop for the inspiration sake. The story line was somewhat similar to waterboard but the way people reacted in the novel was totally different.  But it gave me a lot of ideas.

Waterboard is actually based on your personal experience, viz., your memories of accident. So can it be termed as autobiographical?

Waterboard has elements that happened to me – but not exactly. We all go back and go forth with the question “What if”. The novel is result of that question. Though I wanted to keep it as natural as possible, I had to write some scenes/situations I had never faced. I just had to imagine, what would I do or the person with my condition do if he was put in such a situation. I am not sure if it can be termed autobiographical. Biographical maybe, because I had to move away from me and look at me.

Do you think you can write a fully fictional story also in this same manner, that is, within a month?

I think I can. That is what I am trying to do with the next one, which is tentatively named as Amar Chitra Katha. But as I dwell on the story and the idea I bring up so many situations which will increase the word count. But I think it is definitely doable.

Any inspiring words for those who want to write consistently every day?

Check out morning pages. It gives us motivation to write every day. It would be very difficult to hold on to it initially, in the first two weeks. It was difficult for me during that initial period, but now, when I turn back I had been writing for five months every day in the morning. As a result, it doesn’t feel weird when I sit in front of the laptop. I never have to face a blank document again.

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