Saturday, April 21, 2007

I Have Some Spare Time - I'm Going to Write a Book

Every so often someone comes up to me and says something to the effect of: “I have the summer off so I’m going to write a book, too.” For a brief second I’m pleased. Glad I made it look that easy. Then, I ask the serious question, “oh how nice—what genre are you considering?” I ask, trying to get a feel for what they’ve done. What kind of books they read etc.
A shrug follows or some vague notion about a thriller or perhaps, since mystery is selling so well now…maybe a mystery.”

Next question—“what do you like to read? A blank stare or an incredulous look follows with an exuberant –“Read? I have school or a child or a job” — [or you fill in the blank—] ending with “who has time to read?”

Well, dear friend-~~ “If you don’t have time to read, you can’t write,” Stephen King says and he carries a whole lot more weight than I do. Jack Bickham says, “A doctor spends five to ten years learning how to be a doctor. Why then do people think they can learn to be a professional writer of fiction in a week or a month or even a year?”

I reiterate, if you DON’T READ how can you expect to WRITE a book someone else might want to read?

Writing fiction, good readable, pick-it-up-and-can’t-put-it-down fiction is difficult to write. Writing a book requires some very specific techniques and each genre has its own rules, requirements and guidelines.

Take heart, you can learn the techniques, the rules, the style several ways. Each way will build on the other. Read what you’d like to write—what you enjoy reading. Take classes, read books about the craft, especially in your chosen genre. There are writing books out there that will tell you how to write in every single genre and books on general writing in varying degrees of specificity. But, don’t read one genre, one style to the exclusion of the others, which would certainly be a mistake. The broader your education, the better you’ll write.

There are many free—or low cost—writing courses on line. Begin with Barnes and Nobel University. ( )Many of their courses are free. Usually, each course comes with a recommended book that serves as a text book and is offered for sale on site. One way to build your library while learning from experts is to invest in courses and books.

Don’t expect to write a best seller the first time you set pen to paper or fingers to the key board (though it could happen~~nothing is impossible.) Understand it usually takes hard, dedicated work, but if it was so easy everyone would be doing it.

Perseverance, write every day. Learn your craft, study the techniques you need to know. What is View Point (POV), which should you use, when and why? How do you set up a scene? What about dialogue, and pace? How about creating compelling, believable characters? What about using correct grammar and a plethora of other considerations.

As you work, you’ll find a new appreciation for the rhythm and beauty of the written word. You’ll become amazed at the subtle ways you can take ordinary words and make them resonate with your reader.

To start, commit to yourself. Write down your goals. Where do you want to be with regards to your writing career, say in four or five years? Then work backwards, three years, two, and one. Take that one year and break it into 12 months. Keep breaking those big blocks (months) down until you have a plan for today, tomorrow, next week. How many pages will you write a day? How many fiction books, periodicals, non-fiction books, seminars or classes will you take and when?

Once you make a plan, plan your work and work your plan. “No one plans to fail, they just fail to plan,” the saying goes. Writing is a career, it takes as much dedication, hard work and perseverance as any other. In a way, perhaps more, because once the rejections begin, and they will no matter how good you are…You’ll need to tough it out, hang in there, believe in yourself and keep writing. The writing life isn’t for sissies, but one fan letter is worth every last minute spent writing and getting rejected. So WRITE ON! And good luck.

No comments: