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How to Write a Book!

October 14, 2017

 

The number one question I'm asked is: I want to write a book. How do I do it? There's no one answer to this question, of course. Everyone writes with different processes. But there are a few commonalities and I'll explore them here.

 

1. Everyone starts the same way: BIC. Put your Butt In a Chair. Actually, I use a standing desk, but you get the idea. You have to actually write to write. Writers often hope our characters will come to life and finish the story for us, but the one time I heard of that happening, the character also murdered his author, so there you go. Just do it yourself. 

 

2. So, how do you make time to write? You just do. Everyone does it differently, and even though Joe Bob Briggs Writes Everyday No Excuses (and you should click through because that's some good writing advice, too) that doesn't mean we all can. Shannon Hale is famous for talking about how, with kids and appearances dozens of projects and eating and sleeping, she has to say NO to a lot of requests in order to make time to write. Here's what her writing day looks like. Two words: prioritize writing.


Though my schedule varies, most weeks, I write on Saturday mornings for three or four hours, two other mornings a week for two hours, and one night a week for two hours. I am a mom of two, have a full-time job, and am a doctoral student. All told: I write or edit the manuscript I'm working on in about nine hours a week. On a deadline, obviously, this changes. But assuming you're not on deadline, and most of us toward the beginning of our careers are not on deadline, this type of a commitment will get you a strong start. How long your writing takes, and what path you follow is individual, but again, there are a few guidelines.

 

3. Pantsers. Some people, like me with my first book and then never again, write without an outline. They're wild and crazy maniacs. If this is your style, cool cool cool. Whatever. But that means you must be a revision fiend. A pants'd book will need a lot of help to come together. I have a post on revision tactics, so feel free to study up there. 


4.  OR: Outline the heck out of that thing. I start--always now--with a Save the Cat worksheet. This allows me to see the big picture of an idea, and know what more I need to think about and fill in to have a fully-fleshed out book. From there, it's back to number one.

 

5. Know that you will start and start again. And every time, it helps to remind ourselves that there's a process, and eventually the daily BIC experiences will turn into a readable book.

 

6. So, don't just talk about wanting to write! The best thing you can do, if you want to write a book, is just write. It's easy to say you want to write a book, but if you don't make the time to actually write, you're not a writer. Writers are compelled to do what they do. We do it for no money, through constant criticism (both self-and-other), we miss episodes of our favorite shows, we miss bedtime with our kids. We take weeks to respond to e-mails and rarely see friends. It's a sacrifice to write while doing life, too, and not enough is said about that. It's an art, and that means it needs to be practiced. So, practice. 

 

 

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designed and illustrated by danika Corrall