So, as many of you may already know, I’ve written a book. It hasn’t been published yet (though, I hope it will be soon), and I need to polish it up a bit, but it is written.
So, how did I write a book? I applied my ass to my chair. Strap in, kiddies. This is going to be a long post.
Step 1: Find your motivation
Look, you’re never going to write a book without being motivated to do so. You can talk about that “book idea” you’ve had for “ages” until you’re blue in the face. Until you find some way to force that ass into that chair, you’re not actually going to ever write it.
This is the hardest part, because you know, deep down, that writing a book is a lot of work. There’s research to do, notes to make, drafts to write, and all those pages! It’s downright daunting. The blank page stares you in the face, mocking your inability to fill it. That thing is worse than the dog from Duck Hunt.
I started my book three or four times before I found my motivation. For me, it was someone giving me deadlines coupled with the reassurance that I could, in fact, write. Without the deadlines, I’d have never finished, and without the affirmation, I would’ve given up. With the MFA program from SNHU, I got both. Not only did it motivate me, but it improved the hell out of my writing. Plus, now I have a Master’s degree.
Step 2: Apply ass to chair
I mentioned this above. It’s a simple principle that’s difficult to follow through on. At SNHU, this was a favorite saying. When you asked a mentor (professor) how to write, they would always answer, “Apply ass to chair.”
They mean, sit down and write. The idea is that simply writing will carry you through no matter what comes out on the page. I found this to be mostly true. My problem was that I’d sit down and sometimes nothing would come out because I’d be waiting for profound words to shoot through my brain and into my fingertips. Sometimes that worked, but most of the time it didn’t.
So, I’ll modify the saying a bit: “Apply ass to chair, and spew.” What do I mean? Literally this: start typing (or writing)—spewing words onto the page. Even if you’re having trouble stringing together a solid sentence, it doesn’t matter. Just write. Don’t think about it, just go!
How does that work? Simple—it gets you actively thinking about how you want to present your ideas on paper. It forces you into a writing state of mind. You may start off with utter crap, but a little further down the page veins of gold may appear. Go back later, trim the crap, and you get something polished and shiny. It really works.
Step 3: Get some unbiased feedback
When I say “unbiased,” I don’t mean that you should walk up to a complete stranger and hand them pages from your manuscript. What I do mean is that you should find someone to read your book that is willing to give you unbiased feedback. I was lucky, because that feedback was easy to find at SNHU. Bless them for their honesty.
You should also try to find people both inside and outside of your target audience. I wrote a Sci-Fi piece, but I’ve received a lot of really awesome feedback from people that had never read any Sci-Fi outside of Fahrenheit 451 or 1984. They were great at helping me develop characters and clean up any fatty language I had lying about.
People that regularly read Sci-Fi helped me flesh out my setting a little more. In short, both camps provided a lot of very useful insight.
Step 4: Do NOT take it personally
No matter what you write, a lot of you is going to come out onto the page. That makes sharing your work an intensely personal experience. It can be hard to have someone read your heart and soul on the page and tell you that you need to fix it.
The writing process is a personal experience, true, but when people give you feedback (positive or negative) they’re just trying to help. If you take that feedback to heart, and reexamine your work based on it, you’ll find that it generally helps you express yourself more clearly. It’s not fixing a part of your soul—instead, you’re just tweaking your work a bit so that people can better understand you. This is incredibly rewarding—don’t rob yourself of the experience just because you’re dead set on a particular sentence that no one else seems to like.
Always remember, it’s your story, so you’re ultimately the boss. If you don’t agree with some feedback, don’t use it—but make very sure that you listen
and understand the feedback before you dismiss it.
Step 5: Don’t stop
I’ve finished writing one book, but I’m not done yet. Keep writing! You’ll get better, and the more you do it, the less daunting those blank pages become (at least for me). Keep going, find that vein of gold, and run with it.