The first step is simple. Decide that you will write a book. And then:

Declare your intent
Announce your desire to be an author. Do this while you’re still in your high paying job, making lots of money and the only problem you face right now is that you’re a little bored and you can’t travel as much as you’d like. Do this with the full confidence that your money is limitless and you’re earning more than you can spend. Do this repeatedly, whenever you can bring it up. Do this at parties to other authors, and ask them for “tips.” Make sure they know that the “” around the word tips is implied.

Ignore the look of rising panic in author’s eyes when they realize there is one more person competing with them. Tell yourself: how hard can it be? Everything I’m reading right now tells me good books are hard to find in India. I’m an amazing writer.

Tell yourself you’re a good writer each time you pass a mirror. Before long, it’s part of your morning ritual. “I’m a good writer,” you murmur to yourself. You take up meditation as an art form. You meditate for twenty minutes every day and then you post about it to Facebook.

Facebook is not where the upcoming authors hang out, you realize. You sign in to your disused Twitter account. You’re ready to take over the world with a few pithy tweets. You pause, fingers curved over the keyboard and can’t think of anything to say. You type: “Here I am, back again on Twitter, this time for good, I hope!” in a great rush and slam your laptop shut. “I am a good writer,” you say to yourself. Inhale. Exhale.

You have a dear friend/aunt/neighbor who is a successful author. You ask them how to begin. They think it’s absolutely terrific you’re joining them. “Just what the literary scene needs,” they say, “A new fresh voice.”

You start saying, “A new, fresh voice” to yourself as your morning mantra. A new fresh voice. A new fresh voice. A new fresh voice.

Now that you’ve started writing…
Someone introduces you as their “author friend” for the first time and you feel a thrill, a conviction of rightness when this happens. The person they introduce you to asks politely, “What’s your book about?” You launch into a long summary, by the end of which their eyes are a little glazed. “It’ll be better when it’s a book,” you assure them.

Someone else asks you what you’re writing. You manage to condense your summary into two lines. “So basically your story,” says the person you’re talking to, with condescension dripping off every word.

(A new fresh voice. I am a good writer.)

“All the best novels are partly autobiographical,” says your best friend as she plies you with wine. You plan to dedicate your book to her.

“How many words have you got?” asks an old colleague. You tell her snottily that it’s not about the word count, it’s about the progress of the story. It’s not her fault, she’s just a corporate drone, you tell yourself. She tells you all about the office and what’s happening, and you find yourself missing it a little. You miss it a lot more when the cheque comes and you’re astounded by how much they’re charging you just for practically breathing. Your colleague takes pity on you and pays for it all. You plan to put her in your acknowledgements.

It’s time to think of publishing
But seriously – you barely have chapter one. You need two chapters and a summary to send it to a publisher. You spend a long time googling publishers email addresses.

Should you get an agent? Google, google, google.

You meet an agent. They promise you big things: a movie, lots of money, five publishing houses interested in you. You’re starry eyed. “Just send me what you have,” says the agent.

You email the agent immediately on getting home. They email you back the next morning. “We charge to read manuscripts,” they say. You’re almost about to say yes, when your innate cheapness wins over – something that’s been happening a lot since your bank balance dwindled from “lots” to “comfortable” to “watch it.”

You beg your aunt/cousin/friend/neighbour for their editor’s email. “I just want to publish something,” you say. You try and not look despairing, unless it works on them, in which case you look very despairing indeed.

They all think you’re a fresh new voice, but they’re now full of warning about the publishing houses. “So-and-so never pay royalties,” they say, voices full of doom, “XYZ is terrible at marketing. Q? You want to go to Q? Please, they’re bleeding money.” Finally, you manage to get one contact out of them and shuffle out of there.

You email the editor, but unlike the agent you don’t hear back for weeks. You’re despondent.

“Listen, just write something instead of feeling sorry for yourself,” says your best friend. You take her out of the dedication.

But it’s good advice. You set yourself word count goals. You turn off the wifi and don’t turn it on again, no matter how appealing it is. You work steadily, and steadily, your book grows. You’re kind of amazed by yourself.

The editor writes back. “Sure,” he says, “Sounds interesting.” They offer you a pittance for your flesh-and-blood-and-hard-work but it’s not like there are twenty thousand other editors pounding at your door. You agree.

Suddenly, it’s real – or is it?
SIGNED A BOOK DEAL you say on Facebook. It erupts with notifications. Almost worth getting no money at all.

You give up meditation. You sleep in and stay up late until you realise your deadlines are the same deadlines, even if you don’t have to get to work by 10 am. Your friends are finding it hard to wrap their heads around it though. “Why do you have to go home?” they ask you a lot, “What do you have to do tomorrow?” You find yourself avoiding them on weekdays.

None of your edits has arrived yet. It’s been a month.

None of your edits has arrived yet. It’s been six months.

You email your editor about your book. “Oh yeah,” he says, “We’re slotting it for sometime next year.” He asks you about cover options.

The covers are horrible. Is that what your editor sees you as? You’re reluctant about rejecting them all, in case you hurt someone’s feelings, but then you do anyway.

Finally there is a cover you like. Finally there is a launch date. It’s not quite a “launch” date, because nothing happens except your book quietly comes out. You post the link to the Flipkart and Amazon page incessantly.

You keep going. You stumble. You’re poor, but you get invited to a few literary festivals. Maybe you don’t, and you sink into delicate obscurity. Your friends still introduce you as an author, and it still gives you a thrill. Your editor publishes your second and third book. The next one will be the big one, you tell yourself.

The party’s over
You stop. You find another full-time job. Maybe, if the job allows, you do a little writing on the side. You still wonder what it would be like to have that life, to be your own boss, but then you get a promotion and you can finally rent your dream apartment, and it seems like a pretty good trade off.  Your book is displayed proudly on your shelves. “I wrote that,” you think, with pride.

You meet a person at a party who says they want to quit their job and be an author. You laugh. You pat them on the shoulder. “Don’t do it,” you say. “I’m a good writer,” they say, gazing at you with a face that looks a lot like condescension. You shrug. It’s not your problem. You’re done.