So You Want To Write A Book? Advice From One Amateur To Another.

You’re human.  You experience cool things sometimes.  Most of us will one day reflect on these cool things with a fond nostalgia, talking the ear off of any poor sap within ear’s range.  Other people experience things and say “By gum, I should write a book about all of this!”  And to the latter I say congratulations!  You should.  Everyone should sit down and write about something.  It’s cathartic.  I feel better the second my fingers touch a keyboard or a G2 Pen.  And to those writing; I bet you want to tell everyone that you’re going to write a book, right?


What do you think is easier, writing a book or telling people that you’re going to write a book?  Writing a book is hard.  It requires a knack for description as well as storytelling.  And if your prose sucks, you’re dead in the water (writing pro-tip #333: Abandon idioms like this.)  Telling people you’re going to write one is cool.  It makes you seem artsy.  When you tell people you’re writing they envision you at a large cedar desk, a scroll of stream-of-conscious trailing off your smoking typewriter.  Maybe your imaginary room is illuminated by a beam of sunlight piercing your half-drunk bottle of aged whiskey, giving your imaginary office a rustic, sepia tone as if you’re tucked away in a cabin in upstate New York.  And people would believe you, if the ‘writer who doesn’t write’ cliché didn’t exist.

I’m harsh.  I apologize.  I am as much an amateur as anybody else.  You’re not like that.  Let’s say you have a new word document open and you’re just pounding away.  People spend years on novels?  You think.  How?  It’s just rolling off the tongue. I dare say that it’s easy.  And it is.  Starting a work is easy enough.  But a couple of chapters in you come up with a sub-plot.  Another two pages down the road and you’ve added a completely different character.  Write a bit more and you come to find that your main character must be bipolar because his mood shifts every other paragraph.  Then you forget how you started the book and on rereading it you find that the introduction is horrible.  You rewrite it and come to find that it doesn’t line up with your first draft.  Until finally, after everything is lined out, you look at the word count and realize you only wrote about twenty-five pages worth of material.  It’s hard.  Some people can dive in, others can’t. Years ago, referring to Kerouac’s On The Road, someone pointed out that “…some people go on the road for two weeks and write a book in two years.  You [Kerouac] were on the road for two years and wrote the book in two weeks.”  Somebody who hates Kerouac will tell you that it definitely shows.  Go into a bookstore and count how many James Patterson, Danielle Steel, Tom Clancy books there are.  These people can churn out a few books a year.  Granted, they are paid writers and some use co-authors nowadays.  Contrarily, Stephen King (admittedly a prolific author) lists the date he started and finished It(4 years).  William Gass spent 26 years writing The Tunnel.  Pynchon started Mason & Dixon in the 70s and it wasn’t published until 1997.

I came up with this article idea the other day, intending to be a jest poking fun at everyone who says they want to write.  Instead, from one amateur to another, all I want to offer is advice.  Don’t tell people you’re writing something.  Telling sets up expectations.  There’s something bubbly about writing for yourself.  Enjoy it.  Writing is hard.  For most, it takes planning and lots of practice.  No one could sit down at a computer and write a book like Ulysses unless they have a copy next to them and are rewriting it word for word.  A lot of people want to give up at the first sign of struggle or for lack of inspiration.  I had a lot of trouble coming up with a topic this week, so this blog is an exercise in writer’s block.  One of the cardinal rules of writing is “Show, don’t tell.”  I think that rule applies before you even open your computer.



Shameless Plug!!!

I seek out talent and contribute to a website a friend of mine created called The Northeastern.  The site is dedicated to writers in my area as an outlet to show off their creativity as well as promote the idea of a local writing scene.  Check out the link above and if you like any of it, show it to your friends.  Thanks for reading!

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