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  • Writer's pictureJacque Stevens

Writing Tips: So you want to write a book . . .

That is so awesome! And as someone who has written a few books herself, here is my profound advice: Write a book. Serious. Just sit down and write it. Type letters that form words and words that form sentences and sentences that form pages until you have a book. Then erase more than half of them and try again. Rinse and repeat. There really is no better way to learn! And while you go, you will naturally learn a bit about creating characters. You will learn about plot. You will learn your personal style and voice. And if nothing else, you will learn if you really want to write a book. How do I write a book? Besides the whole sitting down and typing thing, I really don’t know how you are going to write your book. Everyone is different. Some people start with a character. Other people start with a cool plot point. Some people need an outline and to plan everything in advance. Other people need to sit down and crank it out beginning to end without stopping to think. Some people need to limit all their distractions and retreat to some cave. Others work better with an army of cheerleaders, which is perfectly fine too. Just don’t let any critics in yet, because you really don’t need a reason to stop right now. You just need to keep going and figure out what works for you. The truth is, you’re not really writing a book right now. You’re learning how to make writing a part of your life so you can write your real book later. Writing something worth reading takes time and if you aren’t going to do it regardless of publishing or the time it takes, you’re just not going to do it. And no, not everyone has to do it—or at least not in such a formal and disciplined way that produces a published novel. And I think that’s fine. I can write (along with my small army of author friends) and you can read if you prefer. I mean, I really might not be the best cheerleader myself because if you can’t get yourself to do it, I’m going to think you just don’t want to and leave you alone. That really is more based on my experience. I'm more of a cave writer and hardly ever have to FORCE myself to write or, at least, edit my own stuff. I would get discouraged and then wander right back to it because that is just what I do. It’s how I cope with stress and make sense of my own life/thoughts. It’s what I am. I’m going to write, no matter what else happens. So publishing for me was more like “well, I have all these books here, might as well see if I can share them.” So if you learn you’re NOT that motivated to keep writing like this, well that’s part of the journey too. Find something equally awesome to do. I can still cheer and support you in your other pursuits and we can still be best friends. But if you’re stopping for the following reasons, I might still be able to help! What if my idea really is bad? It probably is. My ideas are bad too. In fact, you would be surprised how many good books sound really bad when they are isolated to a single idea. Or even if it isn’t "bad," it will sound like something you have seen a million times already. But that really doesn’t matter. Sometimes the fleshing out process is needed before it really starts to shine, but if you never try it, you would never know. So until you have a book under your belt, I would say that you do not have the experience to know when you have a good idea or a bad one. As long as the idea excites you enough to get to the final page, that’s enough. What if I’m not talented enough? You know, art is a funny thing. No one questions that you have to study to become a dentist or an astronaut, but for some reason when you start talking about art, the conversation changes. Now everyone starts to focus on this funny thing called talent. Truth is, I don’t know any writers or any other kind of artists that were so naturally gifted that they never had to practice. We all have strengths and weakness. We all need to study the craft and get better. Often only parts of the writing process will seem natural at the front end and you will have to learn the rest as you go. Some days, it will be no fun at all. Some might even call it work. What you really need to find out is if your desire is strong enough to sit down and do it anyway. What if I don’t have time? I think there are seasons in a person’s life where they legitimately have to put aside something they say they want to do in order to do something else. But when you really boil that process down, you really aren’t saying that “you don’t have time.” What you are saying is “something else is more important right now.” And maybe it is! Just make sure that you are making a conscious decision about how to prioritize your time and not just another excuse. The fact is, there is never enough time and people tend to do what is most important to them. So if writing is important to you, you are going to have to learn to take the time and make it a consistent habit. Even a ten-minute a day habit will eventually produce a book if you keep it going long enough. So you want to write a book? You really, really do? Then just sit down and write it. Don’t focus on getting everything “right.” Just focus on getting it done. Make sure it has a beginning, middle, and an end, nothing more. And once you've done all that, head on back here, because this is just the first step. NOW it’s time to do your research and get some feedback, as I will explain in my next post. :)

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