Updated: Apr 4
My first non-fiction novel 'The Protectors' took its first breath
Being a #storyteller fascinates me, but I don't take up any #technical writing assignments. For example, I am okay telling the world about Mary going for a swim but I certainly won't mention the kind of strokes she is making in the water or go after naming the salts that account for its salinity. I won't talk about the frequency of her swims either. I'd rather speak about the evening #zephyr, the glittery #sand, the #rainbow, the golden #sunshine, or the color of her hair, mahogany may be. I'd make the reader marry the moments she is living. Simply put, even with an over-analytical bent of mind I do not use my grey cells to create dry, statistical, and/or fact-based information. I just cannot. I camp out where my creative juices flow with ease and make me breathe the protagonist's journey. That's also precisely how after pulling several all-nighters, I could piece together and edit my first non-fiction novel: The Protectors.
I am already on cloud nine while recalling a few events that shaped it.
It all started when I was scouting for good writing projects around April 2022 and was hoping to get my hands on small writing assignments. Articles, blogs, video scripts, jingles, social media editorial calendars, concept posts, etc. were something I was willing to take up. One fine evening my LinkedIn buzzed. I received a message from Kunwar Vikram Singh, Chairman, CAPSI seeking my availability and interest to take up a book project. He was clear and precise with this explanation. He said that he wanted someone to put together the history of the Central Association of Private Security Industry (CAPSI) because it was all worth knowing. Since its inception, the same has not been written about, and the great institution continues to do impeccable work for 10 million guardsmen and women across the country. Honestly, at the time I did not know anything about the private security industry (PSI) beyond common knowledge. But after delving deep into the subject, I realized that #security is omnipresent and that the sector is far more organized than it was several years ago. Especially after a few enlightening conversations with the well-learned Chairman, I found a deep-rooted purpose in the very existence of CAPSI. The fact that it protects the interests of those who protect the people of the nation propelled me to pursue the opportunity with greater enthusiasm.
Writing is a very liberating experience. It is also a slow synthesis of thoughts and emotions that span different timelines. For this #novel, I wanted to know who the protagonist was going to be. I put in the hard yards and asked several questions, to the point of annoyance may be. But the Chairman, as cool as a cucumber, guided and nurtured every step of the way. In fact, he had kept a list of chapters already handy where he requested my input. Clueless in the beginning, I sometimes struggled to be on the same page as him, but things eventually worked afterward. One day, he sent me a draft of a single chapter written in the first person and when I read it, I decided to be the authorial voice of it, on his behalf. I was granted the creative freedom to pump life into the characters, add elements of #drama, and convert indirect discourses into direct speech while adding the music of #nature.
I e-mailed him my version and he said I nailed it. Regular meetings, discussions, and brainstorming ensured that we didn't miss a beat in the rest of the chapters.
Here's what it all entailed:-
(I) iPhone Journaling
Each morning Hukum (being a Rajput, that's how I greet the multifaceted Chairman) would make an entry into his journal during the Brahmamuhurtham, which is 48 minutes before daily sunrise. That's when he would recall and document his early days as a notable youth leader, an army officer, and a security entrepreneur. In his head, he'd cross paths again with the same set of people and the circumstances that transpired, back then. He dived into his yesteryears typing out the stories on his #iPhone, raw and exactly as they happened. Sometimes it took him just one day to write one complete chapter, and I was in complete awe of his drive.
(II) Autobiographical Format
A powerful and captivating manuscript required him to be consistent with the journaling exercise. As and when I received a message saying 'Name of the Chapter, emailed to you', I'd pull out my creative tools to begin my craft of giving the vessel a suitable shape, size, and form. I resorted to an #autobiographical format because I found it most attractive.
(III) Creative Journey
I consulted several books on idiomatic expressions and used them lavishly. To establish context, these came in handy.
Secondly, a few websites such as www.descriptionari.com helped me transcend into my creative bubble with ease. I spent hours and hours writing character sketches of security honchos, some of who had a page 3 vibe about them. Their unbridled ambition, aggression, strength, and impulsiveness gave me a strange motivation to describe their traits. For example in the chapter, 'Fight of the Titans', I went all out. Here's a snapshot:
Moments later, a brawny man walked in with the swagger of someone with whom no one would first lock #eyes, let alone cross. Two pulchritudinous lady bodyguards and five dapper men covered him, and I caught glimpses of closely cropped salt and pepper hair. Flexing his chest muscles pompously with an unbuttoned shirt neatly folded on his arms, he flaunted that beefy frame appearing like a world-class #bodybuilder. Signaling the bewitching blends of charm and beauty that he craved a cigarette, he lit the stick and set the scene on fire. Surreal and #filmy, the style statement Mr. Rahul Nanda portrayed was jaw-dropping. Perhaps it was why he was a hotshot security professional in B-town; he knew how to draw people in.
I referred to CAPSI's in-house literature to match dates, months, and events with precision. Under the Chairman's able leadership, regular publishing of newsletters, summit notes, transcribed speeches, and other conference material helped in adding depth and quality to several chapters. For example, in 'Reunions of Brotherhood', I compiled details of 16 conferences all of which revolved around different themes. It would not have been possible, had there been no written documentation. I remember it being my 'most writing I ever did' phase :)
Sometimes news articles too were immensely helpful as Kunwar Vikram Singh is a known media personality. During the pandemic phase a lot of mainlines published stories after interviewing him on private security being declared as an essential service by the government. There was no dearth of credible sources, whatsoever.
(V) Mean more with fewer words
A typical 200-page non-fiction novel is to have a maximum of 60,000 words. Going above the word limit sometimes gave me anxiety. I never pretended to be cool about it. I kept chasing one goal: Mean more with fewer words.
Even in the best of writing works, errors are inevitable because we are only #human. The software does more than just proofreading and general spelling corrections. It lets you set writing goals before you put your document for assessment. The writing suggestions in Grammarly are tailored according to tonality (informal, neutral, or formal), domain, intent, and audience. Other than rectifying nouns, punctuation, it also omits unnecessary verbs and provides you with an overall writing score which can hugely improve the quality of your writing.
(VII) Chapter Sequencing
This was an integral part of the #writing exercise. After all, a few stories in the manuscript were standalone whereas a few were connected. But then a common string had to be identified which bonded them all into a meaningful read. I spent nearly 48 hours figuring out the best way to tie the events to each other.
(VIII) Manuscript Submission & Feedback
White Falcon publishing house based out of Chandigarh (India) was tasked with designing, printing, and publishing the book. Post submission their editor sent a few pointers sighting areas of improvement. The manuscript was checked for clarity and correctness after which the author's comments were sought. Following a uniform number format, proper abbreviations, subscripts & superscripts usage, mentioning of the source, etc. were some of the observations made by the publishing house. I ensured that each and every point was addressed.
(IX) Book Launch
Hukum was gracious enough to invite me as a special guest at CAPSI's 17th Security Leadership Summit 2022 held in New Delhi. The most memorable part was when the audiovisual highlighting my speech was played in the presence of esteemed government dignitaries on the big day. The special launch was graced by Gen (Dr) VK Singh- Hon’ble Union Minister of State, Ministry of Road Transport & Highways and Ministry of Aviation, Sh. Bhanu Prakash Singh Verma, MOS – MSME, Sh. Rameshwar Teli, MOS – Labour, and Sh. Bhubaneshwar Kalita, Dy. Speaker- Rajya Sabha and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Health & Family Welfare. I received an award and appreciation for my contribution to 'The Protectors' from Shri Uday Mahurkar, Former Senior Deputy Editor, India Today Group and Chief Information Officer, Government of India, along with Kunwar Vikram Singh. Winning adulation from an audience of more than 600 people seemed surreal. It felt amazing to be recognized amongst distinguished security leaders who with their true grit and determination have made PSI what it is today. Check out the video on this page to know what the book is about.