I’ve Always Wanted to Write a Book

It’s something aspiring and successful authors hear all the time.

“Oh, you’re writing a book? I’ve always wanted to do that!”

Because you’ve gone one step further than merely wanting to write, because you are here, reading this, I’m going to tell you a secret. People who’ve never attempted to write before have no idea how HARD it is. 

Before diving into the murky, novel writing waters, do yourself a favor and start with a short story. claire

Well, you can start with your first chapter, if you really feel that pull. But, if I could sit myself down at the table with a coffee (or wine, probably wine) four years ago, I would recommend starting with a short story.

Here’s why:

  • As a new writer, the chances of your novel getting published without having any other work to your name is limited.
  • Literary magazines are a great platform to submit your short stories and test your writing chops.
  • Short stories are easy to write and (can be) easy to sell.
  • Writing short stories can help you learn how to keep your writing crisp and effective by providing you with a word limit so you can cut the fat–the extra words your readers WILL SKIP.
  • If you receive positive feedback for one of your stories, you have the option of building the piece into a novel. What better way is there to test the market with potential ideas?

So, you’ve read If You Want to Write. Now all you have to do is . . .

(brace yourself for important, life-changing information)

Write.

A lot.

What’s separating you from becoming the next James Cameron or Stephen King? According to them, nothing but a lot of effort.


“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”    –Stephen King

“I don’t assume I’m brilliant – but I do assume that I’ll work harder than the other guys.”  — James Cameron


But, while working hard might sounds simple, sometimes it isn’t.

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First of all, you aren’t going to be earning money writing for quite some time. And, if you’re anything like the normal, functioning humans I know and love, you’re already pretty busy making some. Along with that pesky job, you probably have a social life, a few television shows you absolutely CANNOT miss, a plethora of good books lined up for a rainy day, an exercise regime, and access to heart warming videos of frolicking kittens on YouTube. If you’re like me, you also have three kids who need to be fed occasionally, a house that looks like a tornado hit it within minutes of said (lovely) kids walking in the door, and a spouse who would like you to look up from your computer from time to time for some attention.

But there is hope. If you’re serious about writing, you need to block off some time, the same time every day if possible, to write. Disconnect your internet if you have to. Close your office door. Wake up early in the morning . . . and write. Every single day.

Writing is a muscle. Nourish that muscle. Read. Exercise that muscle until your brain hurts. Write.

In my next post, I’m going to encourage you to do something that might feel very, very wrong. I’d like you to show your short story (or first chapter) to a group of real live human beings.

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As a long time closet writer, I feel your pain. And because I feel your pain, I’m going to chuck you a link to my first published short story, Willy’s Boat. (I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.) Over the years, I worked hard to gain the necessary tools and confidence to write that little snippet and when I finished, I was pretty happy with the result. But, I’ve learned a lot since then. I know there are places the writing could improve. (Alright?) And, that’s okay. I published a story that isn’t perfect, but so what? Writing is about growth. Every piece you put out is like a snapshot of your ability at that time. Save those snapshots as you go! Congratulate yourself for learning, all ways, always.

In my next post, I want to show you how quickly you can learn from your mistakes with the help of a trusted critique partner. I’m going to post the first draft to the (now deleted)prologue of my novel, Old Souls. This is the first piece of my writing I ever showed ANYONE, and my partner ripped it to pieces.

So, tune in next week for a bloodbath.

If You Want to Write

I have no business writing. None. I do it anyway.

For the last four years, I’ve been plugging away at a novel. I’m going to tell you right now, the novel is not the length of Anna Karenina. And, it’s definitely not the next War and Peace. It’s a contemporary fantasy/horror about a guy (well, a diagnosed schizophrenic) who realizes his delusions are real. I think it’ll be out this winter. *crosses fingers*

So, what’s with the FOUR YEARS you ask? (Or, you don’t, because this blog currently has zero followers.)

For the first year–give or take a month–I worked on perfecting the opening three paragraphs. Oh my God, they were gorgeous. I think. To tell you the truth I have no idea what they were about anymore, other than having something to do with the wind blowing through yellowed lace curtains. They’re gone forever. For the next couple years, I puttered around with the first three chapters. Actually, they won’t be making it into the book either.

Despite all of these failed keystrokes, I kept writing. And, in a couple months my book will be ready to get ripped into shreds by my editor.

*waves hands to quiet overwhelming applause*

Thank you, thank you. You’re too kind.

So, why should you follow this blog, hmmm? Because, I have made every mistake you can think of. I’ve done everything THE WRONG WAY. And, I’m going to start from the very beginning and tell you what I’ve learned, so it doesn’t take you four years to get to where I am. (Not to mention getting the damn thing published.)

This is my first blog post, so I’m going to mark the occasion by telling you the FIRST thing you need to do if you want to write. Buy the book, If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland. No joke. It’s the reason I’ve come so close to typing ‘The End.’ Okay, it was first published in 1938. Some of her advice is . . . astronomically outdated. Keep an open mind.

The reason this book is so important, the reason it’s still in print, and the reason I’m recommending it now is this: she’ll tell you what you need to hear. She’ll give you the courage to open your computer (or grab a pen and paper) and W-R-I-T-E. Because, “Everyone is talented, original and has something important to say.” That’s a quote from her book. And, it’s true. You need to know that. You have a unique perspective of the world we live in. You can relay it to the masses in a voice that is all your own. If you feel the need to write, she’ll tell you . . . you can.

I’ve written a LOT of garbage. So will you. And, you know what? That’s okay. I enjoy writing because generally, I’m the kind of person who says the wrong thing. (Yeah, I pretty much always say the wrong thing.) But, if you become a writer you have an opportunity to write what you think you want to say, and then fix it completely.

*rolls up sleeves*

So, get ready to play in the mud.

Read Brenda’s book.

Meet me back here same time next week, and we’ll write some complete and utter garbage, and then try to fix it.