How To Write A Book
I think this was going to be an article to be published online, or a book in and of itself. It's hard to know, now, and it was never completed past this point anyway.
Like many others, since I was very young, I wanted to write. And I did. Lots of poems and thoughts, but no actual writing of anything of book magnitude. At least not on paper. I assume that I also follow most other people in that trait; a lot of things in my head that will more than likely just stay there. Discovering that one is not unique can be very disconcerting, although I cannot for sure say why! Let us just say that I'm like most other people – I dream of writing, but will never get around to it. Which sort of brings me to why I'm here, and why you are reading this; if you still are.
You see, I am not the greatest of writers, nor am I able to get it together enough to actually do the work that goes into such things as a novel, or great story. To be honest, I don't even know if the great writers themselves do such research all the time. One would think they do, but then again, I've read enough trashy novels to know that some probably don't – or if they did, used about as much effort as those of us who never write anything! And so, I have decided to share such non-writing skills with as many people who care to read.
One might also wonder what would inspire such a person as myself, a non-writer, to sit down and do the very thing I say I don't do. Wonder indeed you might. I know I do. Let us say, for arguments sake, that as I do it so poorly, it too will only be a lesson in how one should NOT do this. As an aside, I should note that I get a sense of satisfaction out of being able to write about something in such a way as to be a shining example of the very thing I am… exampling. But if I was to be completely honest, I would say that the motivation came to me from my wife, and in an unexpected way.
My wife, Patti, is an avid reader. In fact, it seems to be a stage thing we both go through, with times when we seem to go through books like cups of tea. It was her procurement of a book by one of our favorite authors, Stephen King. In it, this great writer discusses his past and gives some reasons for becoming a writer etc., and then goes on to give tips and helpful hints and the like. Very inspiring stuff in itself, reports Patti. I smile my usual inane smile at her, knowing that even this will probably not motivate us to actually sit down and write. But I'm ever the thinker, if not a great writer, and a little spark danced about my head demanding attention – and at that point I realized that too much tea, and not enough sleep, was leading to hallucinations, and like any good non-writer, decided to go to bed. That spark didn't seem to want to die though, and even the next day demanded attention.
This spark turned out to be the crazy idea that people might also be interested in how to avoid doing the kinds of things I have, that have prevented me from writing in the first place. In fact, when I sit down and think of the fact that the very book that led to this inspirational spark, the one by Mr. King, Patti picked up in the sale bin at some drugstore. It strikes me that if a great author like that has books that end up in some drugstore sale bin, along with all the other trashy novels, then what chance does my crazy idea have? That is another one of the things I will talk about; how NOT to think. The spark wouldn't go away, and continues to urge me on even as I write this. Do all writers have to put up with such a thing? It can be very annoying, as writing isn't normally one of the things I do at 4:30am- maybe I'm giving in too easily.
With all this said, and you now knowing what may lay ahead, I request that you sit back, get comfortable, and indulge this non-writer as he takes you on a trip you probably never wanted to go on.
One - Procrastination
By the very title of this chapter, you might think it would be better suited near the end of this. I just could not put it off any longer though. This has to be the non-writers biggest stumbling block to actually doing something. Not just in writing, but in life in general. However, for most of us it seems that even if we are motivated to do other things, writing is one of the first things we put on the back burner- if not take it off the stove completely! I suppose writing just isn't important to some people, no matter how much they claim to want to do it. I normally fall into that same category, and am not really sure that this was remove me from it. It could be considered a step in the right direction; or may later become something I point to as an explanation for me going back to being a non-writer. I may, like others who may read this, decide to ignore my own advice and go back to doing what I'm supposed to be talking about – procrastination.
It is a very easy trap to fall into, and really comes down to assigning priorities. As much as I have wanted to write in the past, why I have decided to do other, less useful things, I cannot really say. It would have to be procrastination. That is, unless one can make a valid argument for searching the internet for products one can never afford to buy, for three hours. Or watching Jerry Springer. Do I make my point? We all seem to do things that are a waste of our time, claiming at the end of the day that we just don't have time to fulfill our hearts desire and actually write something. If we only set our priorities a little better, many more of us might actually cross that non-writer marker, and into the realm of Authors (makes me tremble just imaging it!).
I would have to admit that it is something I have practiced for years. Very few can out procrastinate me; especially when it comes to writing. Although, as bad as this might get, I suppose I will have to admit that this might break the chain. It is for a good cause though, and so I will bow down gracefully to those full non-writers who will remain anonymous, and publicly un-shamed, while I contract the reverse.
Procrastination can also lead one to dangerous situations, as an old and very good Irish friend of mine used to demonstrate to me often. Willie was an exceptional procrastinator concerning many things, but the most dangerous of all would have to have been his procrastination when it came to putting out his cigarette. Hardly a threat to society one would think, but with Willie, things where always more complicated than that. His lack of motivation in even this simple task, even after repeated instances of life threatening danger, has to be the peak of procrastination. Although I heard many whisper that he was just stupid, but I stand by his lack of correct priorities and extreme procrastination as the root cause- I could be wrong though, I'm as much a psychologist as I am a writer. Perhaps I should enlighten you further. You could recognize Willie in a bar just by looking at his hands. You would see big red burn marks on the insides of his cigarette holding fingers, marks made by letting your cigarette burn down through the filter. Of course, no conscious person would normally allow such a thing to happen. I suppose it was a good thing he was never conscious when it happened. And therein lies the danger, you see. Being woken up by the sound of a fire alarm would shake most people out of that type of procrastination habit, let alone suffering third degree burns to your fingers, and possibly your body as your mattress/chair or other such furnishing you are on when it smokes and catches fire. However Willie, being the master procrastinator that he was, and probably still is, took all this in his stride, and continued even after many instances. I never seen such dedication to procrastination since.
Of course, there is the other side to it that most hardened procrastinators dare not discuss publicly, and that is that sometimes ones procrastination becomes a motivator for those around you, and eventually drags you into their mode of actually doing things. Other people being motivated is like a guilt trip for procrastinators, especially if it is something they happen to be procrastinating about. Being married may have something to do with it, but it is my experience anyway. If people get to know how to turn your procrastination against you, there is little you can do to avoid the guilt, except maybe move to another country. Which could be why I left my family and homeland of England, to come and live in America.
And so you can see, procrastination can not only lead one to never actually doing what one wants to do, such as write, but also to burning ones fingers, and moving to another country. For something that is supposed to mean putting things off, you certainly seem to have to do a lot to do it. Of course, you could keep right on doing it, and that would indeed be one of the ways to NOT write a book. Are you still with me? Or did you put this off for another time? Well, let us look at some others.
Two - Research & Development
R&D, not as much fun as R&R, but hopefully one has set some priorities after reading chapter one. As I mentioned before, I don't really have a clue what type of research goes into writing a novel. That in itself is a lesson in how NOT to do this. I couldn't even tell you if someone else already wrote a book like this, or if I even have the spacing right etc. I read somewhere once that there are rules to writing, but because of the topic of chapter one (I'm loathe to type the word procrastination yet again), I never got around to finding out what they are. I have no doubt I will be some publisher's nightmare if I actually get around to doing something with this. From what I recall, there are indent rules, line spacing things to consider, and even such things as grammar and punctuation. Not totally alien to a non-writer like myself, but I always have thought that writers naturally have a talent for such things – after all, they are writers!
Of course, even when you think you have the right combination required for one publisher, you may find that it doesn't suit another. This is why research can be important. It isn't so much that you need to research the book itself, as of yet, but the format in which it will be required to be written in. Knowing this, depending on your writing medium, could save you a lot of time later on. Personally, I use a computer and a text editor- such as Microsoft Word(TM). This makes modifying things so much easier then it would if it where "typed".
Researching other things that may pertain to your book isn't a bad idea either. In fact, knowing as much about what you want to write about in the first place, is definitely a step in the right direction. That is how I am able to come up with the material for this particular effort; as I seem to instinctively know how NOT to write a book. All of my research has been done first hand, and I've even managed to move on to the second part- Development.
Once your research is complete, you can begin to develop upon what you have discovered. If your book is more fact than fiction, try to enlarge upon the item of your research by finding related information. If it is more fiction, try and finds points of fact that may go to support your fictitious claims.
I can remember quite clearly an instance where Research, and a little Development would have gone a long way, and it once again involves my good friend, Willie. You see, Willie had this habit of meeting up with all kinds of strange and unusual people. This isn't really hard when you live in Soho in London, as most of the people who are resident there could be considered strange and unusual, but Willie had a knack for finding the most unusual, and sometimes violent, of them all. Had Willie spent more time with R&D, he wouldn't have found himself, or dragged me into, the predicament I am about to explain.
Willie and I had a falling out for a while. It happens when you happen to live and work together. Most of the time we acted like brothers, but at this particular time, Willie had pushed a limit and he knew it. We weren't speaking.. or so I thought.
It seems that Willie had managed to meet up during the day with a small group of "street gamblers". These are the people who run the "3 card trick" tables that spring up on corners around the Soho area every once in a while. It's illegal, but they do it anyway, taking the chance that they can make a few hundred pounds before they have to move on. Anyway, Willie had apparently got himself into a little bit of debt with them, but they had seemed friendly enough to him, until he couldn't pay them. Now, had Willie done his Research, he would have known that messing with these people wasn't a good thing. Had he Developed that idea, he may have also researched the quickest way to a Police Station from his location. Instead, he decided that them chasing him with knives around Piccadilly Circus was a much better idea. He did however expand upon this act, when he spied me heading back towards the Pub in which we lived. It was at this time, in his drunken state with three knife wielding lunatics chasing him, that Willie decided to apologize to me; and on his knees no less.
Normally, I would have dragged the moment out, milked it for all it was worth, but the three screaming figures that seemed to be running directly at me caused me to turn and run for my sweet young life. Willie also decided that following me was a good idea. Probably the best he'd had all day. Needless to say, we survived.
It just goes to show you how useful R&D is as a tool, even in everyday life. Keep that in mind if you ever have an Irish friend who likes to upset knife carrying card sharks.
Three - Planning
It should be known, that had I of done what this chapter suggested, it would probably have come before R&D. You see how good I am to you? I can't be a much better example, even if I tried!
Planning everything is probably the biggest step you will have to undertake. Unlike going on a day trip, planning for a book can take a long time; especially if you are a person who can't get past Chapter Ones topic. Although there are many similar aspects that both activities share. For instance, I'm sure having a spare change of clothes while you spend a few weeks planning, is a good idea. As is food etc. Probably the most important part of a day trip should also be included, and that's the "fun". If you can't have fun while pulling your hair out, then writing will be difficult for you. If you are brave enough and think you can handle it, a probable good first plan is to get a few wigs. I sometimes wish I had thought of it, but I have been assured that it will grow back.
Another reason planning is so important, even before you start to actually plan the book, is to get your life in order. If it is your first attempt at a book that you are about to undertake, then your life had better be ready for it. Writing seems to take up lots of time. Time sitting and thinking, and writing, and more thinking etc. If you happen to have a family, or a life for that matter, then they can sometimes interfere with your novelistic ideas. Not planning your time correctly can lead to strenuous relations with your spouse and loved ones, no matter how supportive they may be. So try and plan some time with them, otherwise when you do pull your hair out, there will be no one who will want to help bandage you up. This is not one of the things I recommend finding out the hard way. Of course, sometimes writing can also be a spur of the moment thing, and we want to get an idea on paper before it leaves us. This too involves planning. All too many times have I had an idea, or a plot twist, or some other great though, only to have it lost. Finding a way to keep those thoughts and ideas while satisfying your family obligations can become an exercise in anxiety. More wigs will probably be needed.