By Devdan Chaudhuri.

Somerset Maugham once quipped: ‘There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.’ But the profusion of creative writing courses in England and USA often give pointers to a kind of formulaic literary fiction that has lost touch with the transgressive values of literature. A true author won’t like to be told how to write a novel, and is least bothered with rules and criteria. Art comes from a mysterious realm of the human self; one’s duty is to follow the calling, no matter what.

I believe whatever one has read between the ages of 16 – 25 will have a lasting influence on the idea of literature one develops and the kind of writing one wishes to do. During those impressionable years, we also tend to gravitate toward and encounter literature that resembles us in some ways. So reading books and thinking about them is part of one’s journey. More one reads, the better.

Novels can be of various kinds; it becomes important to discover and understand what kind of novel one wishes to write. The best way to find out is to start writing one. Then one comes to realize that beyond the conscious self, the unconscious begins to play a greater role. Only while writing, one slowly begins to comprehend one’s essential archetypal elements and one’s artistic vision. Only while writing, one begins to discover one’s voice and tone. So one must write and finish the first draft, let it sit for a while, and then approach it again, to start reworking once more.

The quality of language, depth of feelings and thought, the handling of theme, creation of new forms, enchantment, originality, vision, universality and re-readability are some of the markers of great literature.

And within all this – what is more important to achieve is a distinct fingerprint that only matches with one’s own self, and doesn’t resemble any other. This is what finally distinguishes literature from formulaic literary fiction.

BUY ‘Anatomy of Life’ here:


‘How to Write a Good Book’ is a blogseries created exclusively for Aspiring Writers. In the absence of proper guidance and mentorship in India, as also the non-availability of Creative Writing courses in colleges and universities, the aspiring writers usually give up writing. Instead of blaming the quality of writing in India that’s popular today, we thought of asking acclaimed authors to share their thoughts on what makes a good book.    

Previous articleInterview with Silva Zanoyan Merjanian
Next articleGranta 130 (India, Another Way of Seeing)—Book Review
Devdan Chaudhuri
Born in Kolkata, Devdan Chaudhuri was educated in India and England. While pursuing his Masters, he lost the inspiration to become an economist and returned to Kolkata to work on his writings and research. Anatomy of Life (Picador India), his debut novel, was nominated for the Tibor Jones South Asia Prize. He also contributes to The Byword – India’s new magazine of literature, arts and culture. He has published a short fiction titled ‘The Self and the Other’ in the inaugural issue. His in-depth interview of Amit Chaudhuri and a polyphonic essay on ‘Milan Kundera and the Art of the Novel’ will feature in the second issue of The Byword, releasing in November 2015.