When I picked up Matilda by Roald Dahl from my school library while I was in grade 6, I had no idea words would create such a deep impact on my life. I fell in love with the words, the story, characters, and overall the beautiful joy of reading. Every Friday, I used to borrow a book from the library and devoured it in one week. The desire of getting hands on another book was enough for me to finish the book in just a week.
My love for reading continued to blossom with R.L Stine’s Goosebumps, Nancy Drew’s mystery novels as well as Archie Comics. In the initial days, these were some of the works that made me instantly fall in love with reading. Even at that point of time, I had no idea what it would be like to become a writer or to write something.
The first time I tried my writing skills was at a fanfiction that I wrote and posted regularly in one of the Bollywood movie forums. The members of the forum appreciated my work. I still vividly remember, one of them who had become a good friend of mine, had asked me to take my writing seriously and pen down a book which could be published later. At that time, I had no idea what publishing was all about, let alone writing a book.
However, I never banished that thought from my mind. It was only in 2012 when I had to stay in a hostel, far away from my family to pursue my Master’s degree, I took my writing seriously.
At that point, I picked up the courage to pen down a story and begin my writing journey. Since I had ample of spare time on my hands, I thought it would be the best time to begin a project. I wasn’t writing for the first time. I had written fanfictions earlier but my writing skills were only elementary. As soon as a story settled in my mind, especially the male protagonist, I started writing it down.
After I finished writing the first draft, I did not know what to do with the manuscript. My incessant findings on the internet told me to look for a literary agent if I wanted to get my book published from a renowned traditional publishing house.
While keeping my fingers crossed, I submitted my manuscript to various publishing houses and literary agents but received nothing but rejection in return.
Apart from trying my luck with the foreign publishing companies, I also submitted my manuscript to the ones based in my country. While some of them did not like the idea of publishing a romance novel in English, others never bothered to respond.
Without feeling disappointed, I carried on with the struggle for the next two years. I met a friend online who introduced me the concept of self-publishing. Taking his suggestion, I looked for self-publishing on the internet and conducted all the basic research.
Fast forward to 2015, I took to CreateSpace, an independent publishing service by Amazon, and got my first book (Undying Affinity) published.
For letting Pakistani readers have access to the book, I got some copies printed from a local self-publishing house based out of Lahore and with their help, I was able to distribute them across various bookstores in Pakistan including but not limited to Readings and Liberty Books, the top-notch bookstores in Pakistan at the moment.
After two years of relentless efforts, the same book turned fortunate by going into the hands of Penguin Random House India, the leading traditional publishing house in South Asia and now has been released in a more competitive and diverse market.
The book, Undying Affinity, just like me, has been through so much. After getting rejected by various publishing houses, it still managed to stay strong and overcame all the refutations. Today, I am glad the book has received the love and attention that it truly deserved. Two of my books have been published and the third one is in the pipeline. I’m now thinking of ideas for my fourth book.
A few years ago, I would never have even dreamt of becoming a Penguin author, let alone writing a book and getting it published. But now, it has become my reality. It’s like I’m living a beautiful dream every moment of my life.
My advice to every aspiring writer would be to not give up on their dreams. If you really want to pursue a career in writing, then work hard for it. Rejections are a part of the journey and learn to take them graciously. If you’re good at handling your failures, you’re good at handling anything. A tip I always offer to the budding writers is that they should never stop reading. My love for reading led me to writing. Had I been not a voracious reader, I would never have been able to develop a soft corner for writing. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong for me to say that my love for reading is slightly greater than writing. I may come across a writer’s block but I never have experienced a reading block ever. Plus, reading works best when you’re stuck with a writer’s block.
Follow your heart, follow your dreams, and never give up.