Monday, September 10, 2012


“Of course, in fairness, I must remind you of this: that we writers are the most lily-livered of all craftsmen. We expect more, for the most peewee efforts, than any other people.”
―Brenda Ueland

I took one of my books to the best local used bookstore, Escape Fiction to see if the owner would sell it on consignment. He said he used to just buy the books outright and put them on a shelf but that so many people are writing books these days that he can't do that any more. He took it on consignment and put it up on his front shelf. So far it hasn't sold (he said the 'trade' size isn't as popular, but its the smallest I can get it printed in).

Lately a lot of people are writing books, I know of at least five people writing books at the Ace of Spades blog alone. It is very easy to do these days. All you need is time and a keyboard, and there are thousands of resources available online to help you get it done, from start to editing, to covers, to printing and distribution. This really is a golden age for authors, and I'm glad to be in it.

And since so many people are writing, I want to pass on a bit of advice, things I've learned about getting the job done. This isn't about how to market your book, it isn't about what to do with the cover or who to go through as a distributor. This is about how to get the thing finished.

The first thing to realize when you set out to write a book is that its going to take time. I write fast, and it takes me about a month to finish a book, writing almost every day. You can do it faster than that, but think about how long it takes to read a book, how many hours you devote to it. It takes longer than that to write it, twice as long, or more. You'll have to realize this.

I write this not to discourage anyone, but to encourage. Its a longer goal, this isn't like writing a comment or a phone call. It will take time, so don't be unhappy if its taking you weeks or months to finish your book. It takes some writers years to get their book done. That's okay, however long it takes to do the job. You are working on a craft here, a piece of art. Writing a book may have a deadline from a publisher, but the truth is, you take as long as you need to.

That said, there are things you can and should do that will compress this time to its shortest effort. To truly write well, especially your first book, you need to concentrate. That means no distractions, and by no, I mean no. You have to devote yourself completely to the job, pour your heart and soul and mind into what you are writing to let it flow properly and to plumb the depths of your ideas and creativity.

In other words, shut off the music. Shut off the television. Go where your kids, dog, and spouse won't bother you. Shut off the internet. Let someone else answer the telephone. Shut off the internet. Did I mention "shut off the internet?"

This is not a joke. The internet is the world's biggest time sink. If you have a connection on the system you type your book on, shut it off. You can take notes and research later, or turn it on to research, but shut it down. Shut your internet off, or work on a computer without it. That way you can and will focus on your writing instead of checking twitter, and email, and Facebook, and chat, and so on. The same thing goes with your smart phone. Turn it off and put it aside.

Another important thing to do is to write. I am not being facetious here, this is serious. Write, every day. Write. Even when you don't feel motivated, write. When you think you have no ideas, write. When you're tired, write. When you're sick, write. When you are upset, write.

You don't always have to write your single novel, but write. Write something, every day, even when you can't think of anything to write - write about having no ideas if you have to. You will find you have dozens of little stories and ideas started and that's fine. You also will find that you've got really great pieces of books down. Great, store them, it might come in handy later.

Write, every day, at least a little, except one day a week.

You need that one day to recover, rest, and think. You'll probably find yourself thinking about what you're writing on that day, and that's fine, but don't write. Force yourself to avoid it, just leave the computer aside if you have to. Its okay to do other little stuff but don't work on your novel.

This is more important than you think, you have to take a little time off regularly or you can get too obsessed. Plus, a day off lets you back away and cool off a bit, so you gain a new perspective. Every artist, every creator in the world will tell you the same thing: stepping away for a while can help you do a better job when you get back.

Another useful tip is to read. You can't write unless you know, and you can't learn to write well unless you are exposed to good writing, so read, and read, and read. Devour everything, because they are research for you to learn about the world, learn how to present ideas well, and what works (and doesn't work) in a story.

And finally, a useful tip is to realize that writers start late. Most major authors sold their first book when they were in their 40s. Most of the great works of fiction and very popular books that you know of first were published when the authors were in their 40s or older. Don't think you're too old, and don't get discouraged that its taking a long time to sell. It did for everyone who has tried to write except a tiny, extraordinarily rare, and usually very well-connected few.

So get out there, and hit that keyboard. It won't hit back, honest.

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