So You Want to Write a Book?
I am often approached by people, who after discovering I write books, tell me they’ve been wanting to write a book too. Sound familiar? With the advent of self-publishing, it seems like everyone wants to write a book about as much as everyone wants to write a screenplay.
“I started writing a book.”
First, there are those, who think there’s big money in writing a book, and think it will be easy to get it published and that it would make a great movie. They’ve started something ages ago. When you ask how far along they are on their book, they might hem and haw a bit, and say only chapter one, or page five. After you answer a few questions, they decide writing a book is not a good way to make money quickly, and the story is forgotten. Really, I was just answering honestly. Not trying to be a dream killer!
“I’ve got a great idea for a book!”
Then there are the people who have a great idea for a story, screenplay, novel, etc. but want you to write their book for them, and split the royalties…or whatever might be in their mind about a fair share. They have a loose high concept of 20 words or less and you can figure out the details. It won’t take much. The idea is the hardest part, right? Ugh. Try sitting in a chair for 400 hours. A writer has to love what they are writing to do that, which usually means it’s a story they care about. No offense the the idea junkies – they might have some fun ideas, maybe even ones not done before, but biographers aside, writers usually don’t write to write other peoples stories. They have a driving need to write their own stories.
“I have this idea for a book but I’m not sure I can do it.”
Then there are people who are very sincere, curious people who truly are just needing a little encouragement from someone to start that idea that’s been swirling in their head a long time. Surprisingly, people need encouragement to know it’s okay to write and be a writer and even say you are a writer. I encourage everyone, but these are the ones that I know really want to give it a shot. That doesn’t mean my encouragement will help. It takes action to write a book. And it’s only a book after you finish it and package it. It’s not even a manuscript until it’s done – it’s an unfinished manuscript – and you can’t sell an unfinished manuscript…at least not for very much. But, oftentimes, these are the people who actually might have the talent to write something beautiful. They might only have one book in them, but it could be a really great book, and I know the process of getting it worked out will be meaningful for them. What happens after that is not as important – yet.
For these people, I just say – write.
If you write, you are a writer. So write. Just start. Don’t wait to take a class, read a book about it, or anything else. Just start writing. Stop procrastinating. Stop dreaming about writing. Stop getting ready to write.
Then write some more. It’s okay to be a bad writer at first, just be consistently writing. Eventually there will be some good stuff!
Learning can come after you have something to learn from. Classes on writing will make a lot more sense once you’ve tried to write, and even more so once you’ve completed a project. So start writing. It’s okay if it’s not good yet. Finish it, then bring on the critique.
A book is going to take a lot of time. It’s okay to do a short story first. But if you are determined to write a book, then writer meet chair. Chair meet writer. Stick together. A first draft of a short book – about 60,000 words, will take you about 120 hours if you know what it’s about and you are an average speed writer – 2 pages an hour. That’s really not much. Fifteen days. Dedicate 15 days of your life, work 8 hours a day, and before you know it, you will have a first draft. Easy! Just do it. If you don’t have a full time job, kids, a spouse, and 2 dogs, you have no excuses! Write and be prolific.
Then when you meet another writer, you can say, “I’m a writer. I’m not sure if I’m good yet, but I’m getting better. Any workshops you recommend?”
Workshops are next time.