Setting deadlines, facing critical reviews, self-limiting freedom were few checks that aspiring novelists should employ in the age of ‘novel explosion’, they said at a Sharjah International Book Fair panel  

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Sharjah, November 11, 2021

Good novels will win end of the day, noted Saudi novelist Osama bin Mohammad Al Musallam in a panel discussion on ‘Novel Explosion’ and the growing ease of publishing novels, hosted at the ongoing Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF).

He was joined by Lahore-based writer and consultant, Awais Khan, and Egyptian novelist Noor Abdulmajeed. The session was moderated by Emirati TV presenter and writer Safia Al Shehi.

“Writing is a sea that writers are lost in, but pure freedom is essentially chaos. I don’t believe in that concept as a human being can make mistakes. Freedom may be the main push for creativity but there should be some restrictions. The best books I read were the ones that were criticised,” said Al Musallam.

Awais Khan, whose debut novel The Company of Strangers came out last August, noted that the advent of Amazon self-publishing has resulted in a plethora of novels. “You can totally learn to write,” the Pakistani writer who teaches creative writing emphasised while calling himself a slow writer who employs a certain time scale for editing, proofreading and publishing.

Noor felt there may not be a novel explosion as such but countries like Egypt are seeing more writers than readers. She also noted that though many readers still prefer to read from printed books, there is an increasing interest in audio books or film adaptations of novels.

“A TV series helps to attract more audience, and sometimes it may prompt them to read the print copy afterwards”, Noor further opined.

Awais Khan, who has also written No Honour, said both his novels have audio adaptations. “The audio industry is booming as people have no time to sit with a book; they might want to listen to a novel while exercising at the gym or on a long commute. eBooks are thriving too, and readers can review a book online.”

Osama Al Musallam who said he writes for the 10 – 50 age group, and that he liked to diversify his content and take time to think in-depth before choosing a subject as that is the most important. If the writing becomes too prolific “it is not writing, it is production”, he asserted.

In reply to a question if self-publishing will destabilise good writing, Awais Khan said that some really nice self-published works have come from people who have the luxury to do it. The novelists told the audience not to feel bad about rejection if they planned to write as all of them have gone through that pain. Awais Khan said his debut novel was rejected by 60 literary agents, but he has not looked back since its publication