A Very Beginners Guide To Writing A Book
Everyone has a book in them, regardless of your age or background. All you have to do is think about the story you want to tell. That could be about things that happen on your job or family interactions. Maybe you’re more creative and want to make up your own story or write about something that happened to you a long time ago. Possibly, like a friend of mine, you like to write poetry and would like to share it, but don’t have the time. Maybe you’re afraid of how much it’ll cost or you’re just afraid to fail.
Let me begin with a story (surprise!). When I was teaching fifth grade back in the day, we had a writing test in New York that required students to write two essays in response to two topics they were given. Each was expected to be around 150 words. When students heard this, they were appalled. Such a large number of words! I had them write a paragraph about something and then count the words. They were amazed at how little it took to accumulate 150 words. Now, forget the 150 words and just write about anything you want. Tell about your favorite restaurant, a vacation you went on, how annoying your boss or a coworker is, etc. It doesn’t matter. Do this in one sitting for no more than 20-30 minutes. Then count the words or let your laptop do it. If you couldn’t do this, or were frustrated with this exercise, it may mean that the topic you chose wasn’t the right one for you. It may also mean something else.
Also from my teaching days, there were times when students had a lot of leeway in choosing the topic they were going to write about. Some loved the freedom to tell about a favorite pet or their best friend, while others made up a story about monsters or space travel. There were also those students who wanted to be told what to write, that didn’t know how to handle this decision making. I gave then three questions to answer and I’ve used these same questions in my own writing. Maybe they can help you, also. First, what do you want to write about? Second, what do you know a lot about? Third, what do you think readers want to read about? These questions might seem like “kid questions”, but they may hold some value for you, as well. By the way, I’m a “list person”, so a list of possible topics might be the way to go.
First, some guidelines even before you begin:
A friend of mine wrote a lengthy book with pencil and paper and now he’s stuck with hundreds of pages of looseleaf paper. Whether this is your style or not, to do anything with your book, it’s got to be on a computer. By the way, don’t be fooled by dictation software. It’s enticing, but make sure what the limits, if any are. So, if you want to use pencil and paper, that’s ok, but arrange for someone to “type as you go”.
You’ll see a tremendous amount of information on suggested genres, book length, successful styles, etc. Make use of all of this free information and learn the writing process, but you need to write your own book. You have to be happy with it or else, what’s the point?
What’s your goal? Are you realistically hoping for that “best seller”? Is there a specific story you want to share? Will you be happy just to see your name on a book cover?
I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a kid and was pretty good at it. Not great, but pretty good. On the other hand, I’m great at not doing what I should be doing. I waste time snacking, watching tv or checking online to catch the news, how my favorite teams are doing, or the name of that actor in the tv show I watched last night. Don’t be like me. I’m not saying you have to write nonstop for ten hours a day. Some authors have set hours or a specific word count they write each day. It’s like exercise. Some need a personal trainer, a gym membership, or a set schedule. Others do better with a more flexible routine. Whatever works for you.
To be a successful writer, you need to read- a lot. I’ve read this numerous times from published authors. I don’t know about this, but for what it’s worth, the books I’ve been reading lately include books on the writing process and children’s books because that’s what I’m writing. I will recommend two very different authors. The first is Joanna Penn, who writes books on writing and publishing, among other topics. The second is Stephen King. I don’t read his novels because they scare the heck out of me, but his book, “On Writing” is terrific. You can thank me later.
As usual, if you ever have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me.