A BOOK INSIDE Dec 19, 2012
According to a 2002 survey, 81 percent of Americans think they should write a book—whether a novel, nonfiction, cookbook, or self-help book. And I think they’re right—most people DO have a book in them—something they have to offer from their unique perspective. So write the book, whether for your eyes only, or hoping to get published. It’ll be hard work, but it’ll be worth it. And write short stories and poems and essays and in journals or diaries. You’ll be glad you opened yourself up and let the thoughts and insights out. Even though around 80,000 books are published every year (most of which no one ever hears of), only two percent of those aforementioned Americans actually do write that book. Because it’s really hard work.
I have always written down stories since I could first write, mostly only for myself. I did take a few creative writing classes, which were good because they forced me to complete work and compelled me to let others read my writing. And, at any given moment, I’m always telling a story in my mind. Scribbling down bits and pieces, full of beautiful words and descriptions is the joy of writing. Writing for publication is (I repeat) really hard work It has its joys as well, but it is no longer carefree.
Here is how I write nowadays:
*I’m always coming up with ideas. I get them from reading other books (I do a lot of reading) and thinking, If I had written this, I would have done it this way. I see people in grocery stores and find myself making up little backstories about them. I remember weird dreams. I hear snatches of conversations, or remember events and thoughts from my childhood. Other people (mainly my family) give me ideas on stories they would like to see written. I tell myself a story about the strange tree with the twisted roots that I passed by on my hike. I have a notebook full of snatches of ideas. I will never run out of ideas that I actually ache to write about.
*When I began trying to write for publication I read several “How to write for publication” books. Nowadays you can look this up online as well. You can’t just type your manuscript willy-nilly, look up the address of a publisher and send it off. At least you can’t if you want a chance of getting accepted. So I did my homework on the nuts and bolts of writing and the nuts and bolts of submissions.
*I started by writing and submitting short stories for children’s magazines so I could have some published stories to put in my resume. Also, this got me used to rejections (if you can ever get used to them) and I would have several pots boiling. That way, when I got a rejection, I could think, At least this or this is still out there and might be accepted. And, because I had stories bought, I received validation so I wouldn’t feel as if it was all totally impossible.
*This is how I actually write books:
I keep a notebook with tabs for Basic Plot Outline, Chapters, Timeline (so I’m not confused by what happens when), Characters (complete descriptions about their personalities, their looks, what drives them, snippets of their conversation style, etc.), Research, Scribbled Notes, Already-Written Passages, Already-Written Descriptions, Dialect Samples, Writing Techniques. This notebook is a mess, but it works for me.
I research what I need to research and put my notes in the notebook.
I write for four or more hours each weekday. To do this I have to be strict with myself, and say, “No, you do not need to do the dishes first. Do the dishes last. If you were still working at the library, you could not get up and work in the yard or answer the phone whenever you wanted to.”
As I write, I listen to quiet music. Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Songs From a Secret Garden, Enya, Celtic Women, Josh Groban, Andrea Bocelli, Mormon Tabernacle Choir—are examples.
Sometimes as I write I get this sudden surge of nervous energy, so I get up and pace around the room, or grab a can of cashews to nibble, or pick up the slinky I keep by my keyboard to play with while I reread what I have written.
When I get a first draft finished (after going over it myself several times, including reading it out loud), I send it off to my beta readers, who are friends and family who tell me what does and does not work. I’m too close to my own writing to do this well for myself.
And constantly, I rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.