You’ve got a book inside you. I’m sure of it. Most everyone does. The only real question is how badly do you want to pull it out and put it on the page? I’m no expert, but I’ve birthed a few books now, and I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. Here are some words of wisdom as you contemplate making the journey:
- Write what you know. I guess. That and/or write what you’re excited about. I sometimes write outer space adventures. I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn I’ve never actually been to outer space. But you better believe I’m mining my own life experience for snippets of dialogue and satisfying story beats all the same. Things have to ring true. Even in outer space.
- Begin with an end in mind. I learned a long time ago that a great ending can elevate a story like nothing else. With the right ending, a bad story becomes a good one and a good story becomes something you can’t stop thinking about. I’m sure it’s a bit different for everyone, but for me, I need to see the moment that makes it all worth it before I can even start.
- Find some inspiration music. The Piano Guys perform the score and NeedToBreathe plays the soundtrack to the imaginary movie versions of every one of my books. That’s just the way it is. I don’t know how to explain this one other than to say creativity begets creativity.
- Set regular time aside to write, and then do it. I used to write during my lunch hours at work. Nowadays, my noon hours tend to be booked, so I try to take a vacation day once a month and camp out at the library until I’ve hammered out a chapter or two. The point is writing takes time (not to mention a whole lot of concentration and energy), so make sure you give yourself the time you need.
- Keep writing even when the writing is garbage. I can be a perfectionist. That means it’s hard for me to turn off the self-censor, but if I do, the output is usually better than anticipated. And when it’s not, edit is the kindest of four-letter words.
- If you can make it over the continental divide, you can make it. Reaching the halfway point is critical. I pace myself as I start the climb up that mountain, but there comes a point when I’m standing at the summit, say 40,000 words, and I realize everything else is downhill. That’s when I know I have a real live novel on my hands.
- Write what makes you happy. Seriously. The truth is I’m my own biggest fan. (My mother is a close second.) Agents, editors, publishers, and critics be danged. I’m writing a book I want to read. Deal with it.
Are you still with me? Good. Now I have a confession to make. I lied. Novel writing isn’t easy. I can never make it so. Novel writing is painful. It’s plain hard work. There’s no way around that. I’m just saying I’m a pretty regular guy who has done it, so you can do it. If you want to. Of that I have no doubt.