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Have You Ever Wanted To Write A Book?

You have probably known someone who has said “I want to write a book.” Or “I should write a book.” Or “I could have written that!” Perhaps you’ve ever said these things yourself. I have.

The difference between me and a lot of people is that, for better or worse, I have written a book. But I did a whole lot of talking about writing before I figured out how to get around to it. Now I’m working on two more.

If you have read The Knot, you know that it is pretty long: 450+ pages. When I look at it, it’s hard for me to believe that I’m the one who wrote all of those words. After all, committing to long-term projects and knuckling down has never been my thing, aside from my strength training.

Here were the excuses I made that kept me from starting my book and from finishing it sooner. Do any of them sound familiar to you?

I’m too busy

Not true. The busiest people I know are the one who always seem to be able to free up 15 minutes if they have to. I include myself in that category.

I’m not a good enough writer

This totally misses the point. Maybe I wasn’t a good enough writer to with the Pulitzer, but I was a good enough writer to write a book I loved. Once I was writing for my own pleasure, not for someone else’s standards or the thought of a big payday, it got a lot easier.

I don’t know where the story is going

That is what makes it so fun! This is one reason I don’t enjoy writing non-fiction as much: I already know how the story goes. If you write for fun, it is easy to make progress on your book–just start writing and keep your fingers moving. You can clean it up later.

Outline, shmoutline, unless you’re doing a research-heavy book for a deadline and the deal hinges on a detailed, pre-approved outline.

So…if you have ever had the urge to write a book, you are writing a book, or you think you would like to in the future, I would love to hear about it.

What is your book about?

Have you started it? Ever?

Why isn’t it finished?

Let’s talk. As a writer, I know how far a little encouragement can go. What are you geniuses working on and putting off?

Josh

PS: Today only–if you would like a for-sale, signed copy of The Knot, please contact me and put “book writing” in the subject line. $23, shipping included, unless you live overseas. In that case, I’ll give you the first $10 of shipping for free!

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  • Kellye Parish July 22, 2010, 1:01 am

    Interesting that you wrote this post today Josh, I just wrote about my unfinished book: http://kellyeparish.wordpress.com/

    In a nutshell, my book is about a member of the American secret police, a terrorist, and a war orphan whose lives become intertwined in the aftermath of World War III in Los Angeles. I want it to be America’s answer to 1984 (that’s the goal anyway).

    I started it when I was 15, but wrote (and rewrote) most of it in college, while I was taking creative writing courses. I have about 70,000 words, give or take.

    As to why it’s not finished? I don’t know. When I became an editor I lost a lot of my free time – even when I’m not at the office, I’m usually working. I am also attention deficit, so I tend to skip from project to project to project without completing many of them. I’m working on a writing regimen to improve these habits.

    But this is the one that keeps me up at night.

    • Josh Hanagarne July 22, 2010, 5:20 pm

      How close to completion are you?

      • Kellye Parish July 26, 2010, 9:36 am

        I’m 70,000 words in, give or take a few. 😛 No excuse not to finish when it’s probably already halfway done. It’d take me as much effort to quit as it would to finish.

  • John July 22, 2010, 7:09 am

    Side note for you Josh – I ran into a situation over the weekend that reminded me why books are so great, and how they can come up with the words that you can’t find. I was struggling to find the right words for a b-day card for my wife and everything seemed wrong when I tried to write it. I remembered a section of The Knot where stoker is describing how he met (and fell in love with) Adria so I went back and re-read it. The series of emotions he goes through trying to describe what he felt, and the thought that no words were adequate is exactly what I was feeling. Then he (you) hit the nail on the head. “everything changed.” there was no better way to say it. I was near tears when I read it.

    That’s the magic of books. The right words at the right moment can hit you more than any other medium I’ve experienced.

    Thank you!!

    • Josh Hanagarne July 22, 2010, 5:21 pm

      John, thank you. That made my day. By the time I finished The Knot, I was stunned by how much I loved my made-up people.

  • Joe D. July 22, 2010, 7:28 am

    Hey Josh—
    I thought you were writing to me in this post! I have started the outline for a book, defining the chapters, getting some ideas on how to flesh things out. But I have not started to really move on it. I’m procrastinating.

    Yeah, I’m busy. But you’re right. We all have 15 minutes every day to work on something as important as this. I’m human. I need that kick in the pants like everybody else.

    The book would detail how my grandmother’s family lived a simple (but very nice) life, and how the way they did things can be applied to improve the lives of those here in our fast paced society.

    Would it get published? I wouldn’t care. As long as I could leave something behind for my kids and grand kids to learn from and take advantage of, that’s all the inspiration I need to write it.

    Thank you for the inspiration today to get it going a little quicker!

    • Josh Hanagarne July 22, 2010, 5:22 pm

      The joke’s on you, Joe. I was writing to you:) Just take the first step and keep going. It will only get easier. Even when my writing feels challenging, if I’m doing it frequently it never takes me that long to get in the groove each session.

  • Michelle July 22, 2010, 7:36 am

    NaNoWriMo.

    That’s National Novel Writing Month. Every November thousands (if not more) people have a single goal of writing a 50,000+ word novel in one month. It’s perfect for all those people who say they’d like to write a book “someday.” The point is to get those words down on paper. The first draft is probably the hardest part, and by participating in Nano, you can at least get something down. It may suck and never be shown to anyone ever, or you might decide to do something with it, but either way it’s an accomplishment you can be proud of.

    I’ve written 2 books due to Nano. I self published one earlier this year, and I’m still editing the other, which I hope to actually send out to some agents or publishers. I’m a big fan of NaNoWriMo. This year, I’m going to be the Municipal Liaison for my city.

    http://www.nanowrimo.org Check it out. Although I don’t think you can sign up for this year until October.

    • Josh Hanagarne July 22, 2010, 5:22 pm

      I have considered this every year for the last three years, and I have chickened out every time. Maybe this is the year!

      • Ted @ Cubicle Warrior October 20, 2010, 2:28 pm

        “One of us, one of us!”

        Come on, Josh. 50,000 words in 30 days is nothing for you!

  • Heather July 22, 2010, 12:30 pm

    I used to write constantly—short stories, poems, the occasional article, then work and grad school got in the way. I still write, and I’ve been working on lots of little things here and there. I’ve even had stuff published, but it’s mostly small-press stuff. I love writing. It keeps me sane. It and knitting and kettlebells. 🙂

  • Demond Thompson July 22, 2010, 2:59 pm

    Interesting. It seems that you have been reading my mind or looking over my shoulder…you spying on me?

    Seriously, I have had a thought of a book in my head for years and all of the things you mentioned especially my perceived lack of writing skills have held me back.

    Thanks for the inspiration…off to work on it!

    • Josh Hanagarne July 22, 2010, 5:24 pm

      Yes Demond, I keep tabs on all of my readers through a perverse web-cam black op I had a hacker friend set up for me. I can see what you’re wearing right now!

      Let me know how the writing goes!

  • Jesse July 22, 2010, 4:25 pm

    Josh,

    I’m 80 percent done with one and 60 percent with another. Though, how can I be sure how done I really am.

    I’m through with worrying about whether it will sell. I’m enjoying the process enough that if only one other (besides my mom) reads it, I’ll be fine with that.

    Thing is, I look forward to working on it as much as anything I’ve ever enjoyed. Sometimes I get a little nervous, go back and read parts and say, “Hey, did I write that? That’s kinda good.”

    More than anything, it’s good for my kids to see me work on this thing that I love.

    Your post was the nudge I needed. Thanks. 😉

    • Josh Hanagarne July 22, 2010, 5:25 pm

      You’re welcome Jesse. I never thought I’d be happy enough with my book to say “it’s done.” But when it happened, I really did know there was nothing else I could have done with it. An editor probably would have disagreed, but it was done.

  • Mac July 22, 2010, 4:50 pm

    Very timely post as usual, Josh. I’ve been compiling information and writings of mine for a business book. It’s something that comes naturally to me and I’m pretty confident I will make it a reality within a year. The new part for me is I got an idea for a novel yesterday. I’ve just started to map out the plot, character bio’s, etc. and I’m trying to figure out where to take the story, etc. I’m very busy and I know all the excuses you mentioned have crossed my mind!

    • Josh Hanagarne July 22, 2010, 5:25 pm

      Mac, let me know when you’re ready for a proofreader.

  • David July 22, 2010, 5:04 pm

    Josh,

    Been reading your blog for a while, but this is the first time I’ve posted. Thanks for the great post! I am indeed writing a book (a novel) — wrote the first draft, and am now going back and doing some SERIOUS re-writing. Not sure when I’ll finish it, but I definitely intend to. Thank you for your continued wisdom and inspiration. And you’re quite right — a little encouragement goes a long way. 😉

    David

    • Josh Hanagarne July 22, 2010, 5:26 pm

      “continued wisdom and inspiration…” I wish! But thank you. What I found when I wrote The Knot was that I write pretty quickly. But I rewrite very, very slowly. I was surprised to realize that I actually enjoyed the re-writing quite a bit.

  • Blaine Moore July 22, 2010, 6:48 pm

    I wrote a book about marathon preparation and recovery. It’s one of those non-fictiony books where I knew where it was going. Oh well…

    One of these days maybe I’ll get back to fiction, but I’m having too much fun with the non-fiction stuff at the moment.

  • Gail @ A Flourishing Life July 23, 2010, 7:10 am

    I’ve had a book in me for years – and a list a mile long of reasons not to write it. I sit in conflict about it almost every day. Should I? Shouldn’t I?

    The process of writing (for my blog) is sometimes really challenging, but I do feel good about the outcome. Why write a book? I know I have something to say.

  • Bethy July 23, 2010, 3:59 pm

    I never was particularly interested in writing anything until I played in a game where I wrote a LOT about my character, including a large portion of ‘journal entries’. I built her up from nothing over the course of a couple of years, and when the game was suddenly canceled without warning… it hurt.

    I’d had nightmares of seeing my character walking down familiar hallways from the setting, and they were all empty. Lit, furnished – but empty. No one walking around. No personal effects. Everything else that gave the story life was gone.

    I still want to tell her story, whatever it is. I’d never thought of myself as ‘a writer’ until I found a story that only I could write.

    It’s been well over a year since the game ended, and the other night I got out of bed at 1 A.M. and wrote three paragraphs out of the blue. What a strange occurrence.
    🙂

  • Fallen Monkey August 1, 2010, 4:37 am

    “Outline, shmoutline.” Here, here! I’ve created mini-hypothetical scenarios for my current project, but they didn’t really come about until I was already fully immersed in the thick of it. I started with a basic premise in mind, but had no idea where the plot would actually go until I just started typing and let the characters take me there. And even the characters themselves came to reveal more and more of themselves as we went along together, so I admittedly didn’t start out with detailed, preconceived character sketches either.

    In any case, the status of my current project is as such: I’m finishing up on what I guess is my “first” draft, though it’s difficult to gauge as I’m one of those who constantly backtracks to revise as I go along, making sure earlier chapters are consistent with the new ones being written. I’ve written my last chapter and am three-fourths through an epilogue that is probably too long already, but I’m just running with it for now and will scale back later. And I’m constantly revisiting my last couple chapters because I’m not sure they’re gelling; am not trying to tie up all strings by any means, but for the ones I am, my knots are a little loose.

    Speaking of knots, I finished The Knot weeks ago and am so sorry I’ve delayed telling you how much I enjoyed it! As I try to tie together my own loose ends, I was so impressed with the way you were able to ultimately weave all those separate characters and story lines together. I could “see” the people and action the entire way through and just got a royal kick out of all of it. I just have to ask–is there an Allissandra/Crisp in your library? She killed me. Thank you so much for such a good read—it had been quite a while since I’d read a book that I couldn’t wait to pick back up; you have such wit and are a true storyteller.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 1, 2010, 11:03 am

      Allissandra and the unicorn are real, but I named him crisp:)

      • Fallen Monkey August 2, 2010, 10:38 am

        Whoa, then you must have had your hands full…hilarious. I loved how you always described Crisp via what her imagination saw–i.e., as though he was actually doing things like charging on his own power to gore people with his horn 🙂

        I must say, I grew quite fond of Stoker and Lewis; what a sweet, demented friendship they shared. Am I making this up, or did you touch on later that Lewis was the boy who stole Stoker’s marble? (in any case, Lewis’s hang-up with not being perceived as helpless was so cute…the way the video store manager didn’t flinch over the fact that he was in his car made me laugh, among the infinite other instances that I did, but do not have the space here to chronicle!) Guy and Poulsen really endeared themselves to me as well…especially Guy’s affection for his grandmother. I was so happy to see him get his solo.

        I was slower to warm to Kylie Jo, but she ultimately won my respect—beware the Antiques Roadshow! And Candy and Aggie…well, let’s just say I wasn’t crying for them at the end (although I did feel more sympathetic of Candy than I’d expected…poor gal just lost sight of her Spinsters).

        And I would be remiss not to mention Alger–the Speak-&-Spell voice and epic frog vs. toad history added such a whimsical element to the entire novel. His powers were intriguing, especially when he got boozy 🙂 There will be more books to this series, correct?

        • Josh Hanagarne August 3, 2010, 10:44 am

          Yep, every character will eventually have their own book. part 2 is about Poulsen. I’m quite sure you’ll get a kick out of it. Lewis, Stoker, and Allissandra were my favorite characters to write. I’m currently recording an audio version. I need to find someone for Allissandra. I’m not nearly sassy enough.