So, You Want to Write a Book? Part 1
Really? Are you SURE?”
I am always shocked at how many people say, “I need to write a book.” It wasn’t something I became acutely aware of until I’d actually done that thing myself. It was hard! So now when people so flippantly throw that out there I say, “Ok then, because if you’re serious, start writing. I want to help you do it.”
Once I was really, genuinely serious about the commitment to pound out a novel, the FIRST thing I did was to find someone who had already done it, all the way through to the end, and then I got them to shoot straight with me.
“Can I do it?” I asked.
“If you have something to say, how can you not do it? That urge you feel, if it’s real, it will never go away until you say what you need to say.”
“Is it hard?” I asked.
“So hard. But anything you do that’s worthwhile is gonna be hard. Do it anyway.”
“What if I don’t get published?” The rejection, the humiliation, and the exhaustion I was imagining overwhelmed me. Then I said this: “Why does anyone care what I have to say about anything, anyway?”
“Ha! You probably won’t get published.” she said, “And most people probably won’t care about what you write. If that’s your goal, you will be disappointed, but remember, some people, a lot of people, will care a whole lot.” And I found that I wanted to write my stuff anyway because I did have some things I really, really needed to get out there. My thoughts pecked at me like ducks and the idea of being released from the bondage of holding in my words, my ideas, my creativity and my messages exhilarated me. I decided to write for the joy of it. AND THAT’S ALL. Free therapy.
Press on, soldier.
In Stephen King’s book “A Memoir of the Craft,” he says a dedicated writer needs to produce 2,000 words every day. Dude, I work. I can do 2,000 words in an hour when I’m in The Zone but that’s not every day. Not even close. Instead, I write when I feel like it.
Not only that. I will publish this story with that ^^^^ poorly constructed sentence (and this one…) without one ounce of guilt or shame. I call myself a writer, which means I must be able to write coherently and articulately, and I believe that I do. But if I were required to write perfectly, would I not be an English teacher instead, trained in that craft? Yes, I would. Generations of writers, no… excuse me, most of World History’s writers… didn’t go to classes to learn how to do it so please DON’T GRADE MY WORK. Instead, just enjoy it. (blogger Mandy Wallace calls us “style sluts” because people writing freely will, literally, give themselves no limits) And yes, you should get someone to proofread your work for you so you don’t look like a moron but once you let yourself out of that Composition class you attend in your own head, the chains fall right off. There will be critics. Tell them to go write their own book. (and that’s a line straight from my book, friends!)
Publishers are tricky. They don’t care about your feelings. They state quite freely that they have no time for first time authors, you’re usually not what they’re looking for at all, and nothing seems as easy as their ability to spit out a rejection letter telling you “Don’t give up!” I have a STACK of them. I had to keep reminding myself: “Your book is fine, Dawn. You are probably the fiftieth manuscript in a slush pile of blah, blah, blah they’ve had to dig through today. Next.”
But one day, somebody picked me, and they could pick you, too.
I believe in my work. That’s the first rule. Publishers are not your fans. To be honest, I think the whole business is just damn good luck. Keep your fingers crossed that if and when your time ever comes, your manuscript lands on the desk of someone who is having a super good day. I swear to God, I honestly believe that’s all there is to it.
It’s important to love your own work and to love doing it regardless of how others respond.
In reality, if you walk into Barnes and Noble, all the best sellers are at the front. That’s where the rich and famous people are. But what about the entire rest of the store? A lot of those people are ‘successful authors,’ but they’re not rich or famous and most of the rest who remain even after that are just regular people like me who were lucky enough to catch a publisher on a generous day. You won’t ever know their names or see their novels on the big screen because that’s NOT how it really is in the world of writing books. Write your book anyway. Sales or downloads don’t make you an author. Only writing a book can do that.
Remember, books are an endangered species. Your memories, your creativity and your knowledge die when you die unless you leave something behind for others. That’s true of all art, so start making yours! I wrote a memoir about my life for my son to read one day, long after I’m gone. What a gift! I have other stories I want to tell as well and those are a part of my soul, too. In a way, you could say that through my writing, I’ve made it possible that I will live forever. Think about that. It’s pretty cool.
I am fairly confident this little ditty of an essay won’t wind up in the annals of great How-Tos like Mr. King’s book (he has written three dozen novels, by the way…) It’s real advice though and every word of it has been true in my experience. It’s been one hell of a fabulous and exhilarating ride and there’s nothing I would trade for this ass-kick (not an error) of a journey I’ve been on over the last eight years. No regrets…except maybe that I took so long to decide I could really do it. Oh, and also that I didn’t pay more attention to learning the difference between lay and lie. (insert eyeroll)
Look for Aprils and Decembers, out on December 10, 2015 by Black Rose Writing, blackrosewriting.com