Every book, from War and Peace to my own little memoir over there on the right, gets written one word at a time. The words turn into sentences. The sentences become paragraphs. Paragraphs become pages become chapters, etc.
Write 100 words a day and, given enough days, you will eventually have a book, or at least something book-length to work with.
This manuscript is just over 350 pages. It’s heavy. It’s long. A lot of it is so good that I can barely believe I had anything to do with it.
It came to life in 15 minute bursts whenever I had the time. Sometimes I wrote on a laptop. Sometimes I wrote on a desktop. Sometimes I jotted things down in a notebook. Once I recorded a quote on my phone while driving.
The tool doesn’t matter.
So much of writing is just about showing up and sitting down and putting words in order.
Nothing else matters much.
I still have work to do, but at this point it will mostly be about streamlining and taking things out. The hard part is over.
If you want to write a book, here are some suggestions and observations:
- Stop reading books and blogs about how to write
- Stop talking about how you want to write, or how you’re going to write when you’re ready or you’ve done enough preparation
- Stop researching agents and editors unless you have something to show them
- Don’t stop because it’s not going perfectly
- If you have time to check Facebook, you have time to write a couple of sentences
- Don’t stop because your rough draft is crap
- You can always stay up 15 minutes later, or get up 15 minutes earlier
- Don’t stop because you are worried about how it will be received or that you might get a bad review
- Stop dreaming, if your dreaming is getting in the way of putting words down on the page
- Don’t say you can’t write because the lighting isn’t perfect, or because you can’t find your special writing candle
- Don’t say that you can’t write unless it’s 4:31 PM and 77 degrees in the room
- Don’t blame the situation–you can write a book in five minutes a day, given enough days
I hope I write this in the spirit of love and encouragement. I know what it is like to talk constantly about writing and never get any done. If you consider yourself a writer but never write, what does this mean? I’ll leave that up to you to decide, but I’ll tell you this:
It will torment you.
Don’t fool yourself: if your word count isn’t growing, there’s no reason to think that writing is your priority. But ask yourself: what makes you think it should be your priority? Where did this idea come from? Where did this expectation come from? It’s hard to picture someone else forcing you to write. We do it to ourselves.
Why do you want to be a writer if you’re not willing to do it? (don’t say unable–everyone can do it) What makes you think you really want it?
If you want it, do it. If you don’t do it, you don’t want it as much as you’re telling yourself.
I say this because I’ve been there. I wasted a lot of time telling people how great my writing would be one day, and didn’t ever write a word.
My words rarely matched my actions and it really messed me up in the head. You’ll go nuts if you can’t ever match your words to your actions.
For yourself and for any potential readers. Do it. And if you aren’t doing it, do yourself a favor, let yourself off the hook, and go do something you love.