Writing Fiction in South Asia
Writers are experiencing problems the world over because of which newer modes of publishing, like self-publishing, are emerging to save the situation. Writing fiction in South Asia is no longer a simple endeavor. The problems are escalating as readers are beginning to treat fiction as though it were just another commodity to be bought in the market. Writers now need to reduce their stories and novels to products like readymade garments, shoes or toothpaste. The buyer has money and will use it to buy books along with any other product that can be bought in the market. For the reader, it is natural not to take into consideration the fact that a writer of fiction has thought of his “product” as a work of art to be placed alongside the works of musicians and artists. It can be soul-shattering to think that the novelist needs to polish and paint his work with externally attractive features to draw the attention of readers.
If Raymond Williams is to be believed, the English Romantic poet of the nineteenth century had felt slighted for the same reason and had withdrawn himself from people, writing in isolation from society and discovering his pleasure-world in Nature, the Future, Beauty or the Supernatural. Wordsworth, for instance, complained that “the world was too much with us.”
In South Asia, a strange thing has happened. A first novel by an author is sometimes published even by a well-known publisher. If that has not made it big, the second novel is not touched with a barge pole by the publisher. The novel is something like a commercial product that must compete with other similar products produced by well-established companies. The second novel of a literary author must be exceptionally great in order to convince a publisher. We are once again returning to the of conditions centuries ago when a writer needed the help of a patron to be able to survive. Today’s patrons are the self-publishing organizations. But not all writers in South Asia are happy going the self-publishing way as our self-publishing is not that savvy.
Unlike the publisher in the UK or the USA, the South Asian publisher will settle only for the novel that does not make the reader do much work in the reading process. They choose novels that help the reader remain in his happy passiveness.