Should I Write a Book?

Yes. But that’s not really your question.

Everyone has at least one book in them; and anyone who wants to write a book should. Perhaps it’s even selfish to hold on to all that experience you have?

Why take it from me? Well, I’ve written three books to date, and have published them in twelve months. I have two English degrees. My undergraduate degree minored in creative writing (components of a Creative Writing MA). I worked in the publishing industry for about a decade. So, not an expert. But neither am I a beginner any more.

Your real question is how.

Start and don’t stop.

Once you’ve begun, write every day. Even if it’s just a little bit.

Ensure the first draft is utterly, utterly dreadful.

Control-freakery will get you nowhere. For once in your life, let go.

You have to get the clay onto the spinning wheel before you can fashion a pot. You have to fashion a pot before you can decorate it and bake it in the oven. It starts as a big wet slightly sticky brown lump. Let it be the brown lump.

Brown lumps are good.

Well, these ones anyway.

Keep the promises you make to yourself.

Starting with the sticky stuff means a day will come when you give your first full draft a read. It’s the read-through where you’ll (hopefully) realise things like:

  • this is actually working!
  • there are four whole chapters missing!
  • that chapter makes no sense!

As you identify further work, you’re effectively making promises to yourself. “I will delete that whole chapter but use the ideas elsewhere.” “I will research about that building to find out how it would collapse.”

Note these promises down. Not keeping the promises you make to yourself means you’ll end up with poor decoration on the finished pot. Resist the urge to capture every point in the first read-through. Capture what occurs to you. Make those edits. Read again. Make a new list. Edit. Then repeat that process. Repeat. Repeat.

Never finish early.

What do publishers do? Among other things, they edit. By all means keep to your deadlines if you have some. But before you put your work out there (however you are doing that) ask yourself if one last read-through and edit wouldn’t hurt. Sure, it’s a nice pot. But could it be a Ming-quality vase with a little more effort?

Choose who you take advice from.

Most people (including me) are full of their own crap. Unless it’s an agent, a publisher, or a beta reader you respect, get better at your own selective deafness. (It’s also time to slay your inner demons.)

Your spouse and BFFs probably have no idea what they’re talking about.

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