Wednesday, June 22, 2011

how to write a book

1. Give yourself permission to suck.

2. Start writing, and write whatever comes to mind, no matter how wretched you think it might be. Don't worry about whether or not it starts at the wrong time. Don't worry if it starts with the character waking up from a dream, looking in the mirror, or mentioning the weather. Don't worry if it's not even a story. Just put everything on the page, whatever comes to mind. Do not stop to reread it. Just get it out.

3. Accept that what you just wrote? It's word vomit.

4. Wipe your mouth off, get either coffee (morning) or wine (evening), and keep writing for as long as you can.

5. Don't read what you wrote. Seriously. You'll hate yourself. Trust me.

6. Think about the story all day. In the shower, while swimming, in the car. Listen to music that fits with the story. Go for a walk. Take a nap. Whatever you're doing, be thinking about the story, planning, finding plot points. BUT DON'T MENTION IT TO ANYONE. They won't get it. Not yet. And they'll fill it full of holes and ask you stupid questions and make you feel like a world class clown. So don't talk about it. Just thinking about it.

7. Scribble all that down on a piece of paper that you'll probably either lose or find completely indecipherable.

8. Sit in front of your computer wondering what "drvaler zoot vs. pegaz sklezixn" meant when you scribbled it on your hand at 3am.

9. The next day, promise yourself you'll write one sentence. It doesn't even have to be good.

10. Don't be scared.

11. Remind yourself that you have permission to suck. Really.

12. Somewhere in your document, keep a place for notes. I do mine on the page before the first page, and I write every idea I have related to the story, including the nonsense from the 3am notes. Character ideas, names, snatches of sentences, plot points, the ending. Keep it all together. And accept that it's probably going to change.

13. Realize that you're procrastinating about writing that sentence you promised yourself you'd write.

14. Realize you're out of coffee (morning) or wine (evening), and get some more.

15. Write a sentence.

16. Realize it sucks.

17. Realize that it doesn't matter, because getting the first draft onto paper is all about word vomit and telling yourself a story and purple prose and similes and reminding yourself of what you think is important about that story that no one else will ever care about, such as the fact that a chair is wood. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT EVERYONE KNOW THE CHAIR IS MADE OF WOOD.

18. Realize that all first drafts suck.

19. ALL.

20. FIRST.


22. SUCK.

23. The book your book club is gushing over? The first draft sucked. The author herself was mortified and hid the thing in the drawer for two months and contemplated telling her editor that it was utter crap and they should probably fire her. That heavy book from 11th grade English that still haunts you? The first draft sucked. The author was probably zonked out on absinthe or laudanum and died at 31 because the editing process was so horrifying and drove him to drink and whoring. EVEN STEPHEN KING SAYS HIS FIRST DRAFTS SUCK, SO OF COURSE YOUR FIRST DRAFT IS GOING TO SUCK BECAUSE HE'S FRIGGING STEPHEN FRIGGING KING.

24. Take a big breath and write a second sentence. Keep writing until you have no choice but to stop.

25. Do that every day until you have a book.

26. Put it in a drawer, or email it to yourself, or in some way put it out of sight and try to forget it ever existed, because you will both love it and be sick to death of it, not unlike certain small children who shall remain nameless and won't let their mother write all summer.

27. Get on with your life.

28. At this point, you may feel one of two ways:

a. Elation. YOU ARE A WRITER. Mrs. Hankerson from 11th grade English fame can SUCK IT, because you ARE A WRITER, and you already have an idea burning in your VERY SOUL for the BEST BOOK EVER WRITTEN, which is like Harry Potter meets The Girl Who Kicked the Thingy and will make a bajillion dollars.

b. Depression. That book sucked your soul out through your fingertips, and you are a shrunken, sleepless shell of what you once were, and you will probably never have another idea for the rest of your life. You only had one story in you. You will now take up macrame.

29. Wait about a month. Maybe two. Whether you felt like a. or b., you will realize you were completely wrong. You will wonder if it is too early to look at that book you wrote, way back when. But you'll want to look. Just to remind yourself of your accomplishment. Just in case it's good.

30. You will take a peek.

31. You will see genius and shit. And you will realize that first drafts are easy. It's the editing that's hard.


ChaosMandy said...

I love this post! I'm in the middle of trying to write my first novel.

I'm great at word vomit, but not great at having endings. I have dozens of stories that just don't end *L*

Virginia Valerie said...

Bless you for writing this. I tried my hand at National Novel Writing Month last year, but gave up when I was writing total crap. I was getting hung up on technical details and the story wasn't flowing. I want to revisit that story because I think the premise was good. I will do this. Thanks, inspiring lady!!

amber d* said...

Best. Post. Ever.