When You Want to Write a Book

 If I had a nickel for every time someone said to me, "I'd like to write"...I'd have a lot of nickels.

To help those people out a little, I thought I'd do a series of posts on the topic, similar to a presentation I used to do in live settings called WRITE, EDIT, PUBLISH. 


If you want to write a book, you have to find the time, energy, and perseverance to keep at it until the story is done. When you type "The End" (We actually don't do that, but the image is nice), it won't be perfect, but--at least in the world of fiction--a story needs to be finished before you can consider the next steps. Mostly, this means the BITCH principle is in effect: Butt In The Chair, Honey. Your method doesn't matter. I know authors who hand-write their first drafts, some who keyboard, some who dictate, and even one who uses some antique half-computer half-typewriting device she claims works best for her thought process. Whatever, just get your story on paper or file or whatever.








Some writers like to zip through the rough draft, ignoring any problems that arise. They put a few asterisks in to remind them to check facts or spelling, or to expand a description or a subplot. Other writers like to stop and find things out along the way, so they wander away from the manuscript to find out what Google has to say about POW camps in Michigan's Upper Peninsula during World War II (Raises hand.😏 ) I'm a bit of both. I like the rough draft to be the "bones" of the story, so I try to get that done early on, but often those side studies contribute to the plot, so I have to stop to make sure I understand how they'll fit.

"How long does it take to write a book?" I'm often asked, and there's no single answer. If you've got a day job or kids or lots of other responsibilities, it can take years. I was still teaching high school English when I wrote my first book, so my writing time was early morning, maybe an hour and a half before I had to get ready for my "real" job. When a story hits, I feel compelled to get it written, so my first drafts get done in a few months, whatever else is going on. (That doesn't mean they're all great. I have a file of "almost" stories that I'll probably never show to anyone.)

Here's my greatest piece of advice, and it's one of the hardest things for a writer to do. When you finish a story, PUT IT ASIDE for a while. Three weeks at minimum. Six weeks is better. I guarantee that when you go back to it, you'll ask yourself, "What was I thinking when I wrote this?"

That doesn't mean it's horrible (though it might be). What it means is that by standing back for a while, you're able to see the weaknesses. And seeing them is the first step toward fixing them.

I've done tons of workshops and talked to hundreds of writers. Among them are always a few who rushed to publication and now wished they'd done differently. Yes, when you finish that rough draft, or even that second draft, you're excited for the world to see what you've accomplished. But here are some things to remember:

*Sixth (or eighth or tenth) drafts are always better than first or second.

*Other writers are putting out excellent writing at a rate the world has never seen before.

*Agents, publishers, critics, and readers have their pick of hundreds of new stories each week. Yours needs to be WAY better than the others to stand a chance.

So go ahead and write that book. Even if no one ever sees it but you and a few close friends, it will make you happy.


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