How do you write a book?
I get asked that question all the time. I also see that same question asked in lots of places all over the internet and in magazines.
It’s easy. Super easy. Super duper totes simple and like, sooo easy. So easy in fact that I have written a guide…
Get a writing implement. This could be a pen, or a pencil or even a fancy shiny computer or a whalloping old typewriter, maybe some chalk or charcoal. (Top tip, don’t use blood as it attracts flies and stinks)
Get something to write on. This could be paper, papyrus, the wall of the local library or town hall, or the fancy shiny computer screen.
Write a book. Go go go!!! Have at it. Woohooo!
That’s about it really.
That’s not it at all. Bloody hell I wish it was. There is a ton of stuff that goes into writing a book. Plot, characters, scene setting, flow, narrative – then all the technical details about similes, adverbs, when to describe, when to suggest, when to layer and thread a narrative. Has my vision been relayed? Does it hook quickly enough? Does it carry the story? What is the story? Just one story or lots things within a story? Character interactions and which character to use to reflect the thing you are writing about. Dialogue, fleshing personalities and giving depth. Building peril and tension. Learning the cadence to know when to make the reader physically read faster and edge forward on their seat and when to ease off and let them breathe and reflect. The different types of horror. Creeping nasty horror that make you shiver or all out jarring OH MY GOD THAT MADE POO COME OUT horror. Gore, the level of gore. Violence, the level of violence. Letting the hero win. Making the baddie lose so the reader can go WOOHOO THE BADDIE NOW FEELS BAD AND IS REFLECTING ON HIS OR HER CHOICE OF ACTIONS AND THAT MAKES ME FEEL GOOD. Love scenes and erotica. Do you say willy or penis? Do you say cock or shaft? What about vagina? Pussy seems rude. I don’t want to say pussy. What else can I call it? Do they orgasm at the same time? What about birth control? Bullying, racism, sexism – how far do you go with those? Our societies are rife with all the ISMS. Aren’t they? Are they? Politics. Do I express my world view in my writing? What about significant events? Can I mention the latest pop-star / reality-star / movie / song / thing from popular culture or will that “age” my book in the space of a year? What if that pop-star / reality-star dude does something really bad later in life? And grammar? Oh shit. Don’t even mention grammar.
And on top of all that….can I actually write in a way that makes other people want to read it? Am I writing for me or for commercial success? Is this a bucket list thing? Everyone has a book in them so they say.
Gosh. That’s a lot and all of what I just popped up there is a millionth of a millionth of the sum total of what goes into a novel – and the whole of it, the all of it is entirely and completely subjective.
That means doing it one way for one writer dude will work wonders, however, doing it the same way for another writer dude will not work.
Argh but that’s just confusing.
It is confusing but only in the way anything is confusing when you first start doing it. You learn as you go.
The truth of it all is there are no set ways or rules. Every single writer works differently and for any writer to tell you How to Write a Book will be doing you a disservice. In fact, they might be doing more harm than good because by telling you HOW might create a mindset that doesn’t work for you, which in turn creates a block and can cause early failure. You set out based on well-intended advice and it goes wrong, so you give up because that person told you how to write a book and it’s not working so obviously you can’t write a book.
Here are some ways other writers work:
- Linear. They start from the first word on the first page and just go BLAH BLAH and let the words come out to form the story as they go.
- Part Linear. They have an idea and just go BLAH in the general direction of the idea and see what happens on the way.
- Linear /plot-based. They have structure but also allow room for making stuff up as they go.
- Plot-based. They have structure and plot and stick to it.
- None of the above.
- All of the above.
- Some of the above on Mondays. A bit on Tuesday. Wednesday is Cat Videos on Youtube and who gives a shit what happens on Thursday?
Some writes do this too:
- They write their book in one hit and worry about editing later. They allow the creative process to go unhindered without constraint from the beginning to the end.
- They part edit as they go and check over the last chapter before starting the next.
- They fully edit as they go and don’t progress until that last bit is perfect.
- They wear rubber pants and smear peanut butter on their elbows.
- Some published writers don’t edit at all and write the book then pass it to their editors to fix and sort out.
- Some use pre-readers and mates to help.
- Some don’t do any of the above, all of the above, none of the above.
Unfortunately but fortunately, the only way you will ever know is to grab a writing implement and have a go. If you are a structured person then try planning for it. There is all sorts of software out there to help plan timelines and stuff. There are creative writing courses which may help. Stephen King’s On Writing is like a bible to writers. If you’re a messy creative bugger then don’t plan anything and go at it…BUT…be prepared for when that initial burst of enthusiasm burns out cos that’s when you need to work and learn.
I hope that helps you.
It hasn’t helped you.
I can’t help you.
Go write a book.