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Want to Write a Book? Here's My Tip: WRITE IT

So I hope this doesn't come off like a rant, but lately (maybe it's the New Year's thing where people are assessing what they want out of their lives or whatever), I have been repeatedly asked by aspiring authors how one goes about writing a book. Which in and of itself isn't a bad question (at all). But whenever I suggest some methods for doing the actual writing, i.e., writing every day, setting word counts, setting timers, etc, I'm often met with an eye roll and a shrug and an attitide of "I don't have the discipline, and really, can it be that hard?" And then, the person in question says something along the lines of, "But I still think I can really do it."

Here's a newsflash: A BOOK WILL NOT WRITE ITSELF. When you say, "I know that I have a great book in me, I just have to write it," I internally smirk. BECAUSE WRITING IT IS MUCH HARDER THAN CONCEIVING THE IDEA. Seriously. If you want to write a book, for the love of all things holy, please do! I mean that with all of the love and support that I can offer. Genuinely. But do not expect me (or any writer) to commiserate with you because you don't want to put in the work. Because we ALL put in the work if we're going to get published, and that's where you lose us.

Writing is HARD. It is meant to be hard because not everyone can do it, not everyone has the stomach for the rejection or the discipline to sit down each day and craft something from nothing. It is totally, totally, TOTALLY fine if this is not for you. But don't pretend otherwise. Because the thing is, you don't have a book in you if you don't write it. It's that simple. What you have is an idea.

From there, it's up to you as to whether or not it ever comes to fruition.

Reader Comments (18)

Sing it, sister. :)

January 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJudy

Sing it, sister. :)

January 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJudy

We unpublished authors experience that same situation. The only difference is when we give the same answer you described about getting your butt in the office chair and doing some writing, we get the eye roll and "What do you know? You're not even published yet" response.

January 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Kay

I had to laugh at this post! I lost about 25 pounds last year and when a friend asked me how I did it I told her that I ate healthy foods, worked out daily, cut out sweets, etc. She rolled her eyes and said that it sounded like way too much work to do that, but then she likes to complain about how overweight she is. Well, get off your butt and do something about it!

January 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJonita

Jennifer, I hear ya! I am yet unpublished and people just think the novel pops out of me!

January 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJudy

Like. +1. Retweet.

January 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristan

Um, argh. Sorry for the duplicates! I'd be happy if you deleted the re-posts and this comment as well. Or you can just consider it extra proof of how much I endorse this post. :P

January 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristan

YES! 80% of life is showing up :) so show up and write... such a good message - you are leaps and bounds ahead of other writers if you actually start and keep going.

January 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie

Oh, yes. So true. What I hear the most is "I have a fantastic idea for a book, will you write it for me?" Which is my fault, really. It's absolutely logical that, when I say I'm an editor, people think I'm writing books for "authors" with ideas. Right?

January 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGabriela Lessa

The writing came easy for me. I keep pads all over and transfer to the computer later. When the muse is flowing you must let her flow -- whenever/wherever you maybe -- jot down just enough to return to it later so as to lose nothing. Yes, you have to practice the art with a passion if you want to be taken seriously. You must take yourself seriously. Research, subscribe/read writing magazines. Do whatever it takes to produce and perfect your art.

January 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnita

Agree with Melanie.......this post not only applies to writing, it applies to every other area of life. Not much gets accomplished by talking about it.

January 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Hear, hear! I wrote my debut novel, EMPTY ARMS, an hour at a time: two hours before work, an hour over lunch, an hour in the evening. It took FOREVER and was completely exhausting, but eventually those hours added up into a now-published book. I agree with you, Allison, there's no easy way out of it, you've just gotta find those free moments and use them to get that idea onto paper.

January 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterErika Liodice

I totally agree with you. And I know I'll have the discipline to sit down and write everyday since I already write for a living. What I struggle with personally is coming up with that really amazing initial idea. I keep saying, once I have the perfect idea (or once I finish this project, or that project), I will take a real, legitimate shot at writing fiction. And just like that, another year goes by. So my spinoff question for you is: How do you summon the muse? I'm considering taking a creative writing class or something, just to start thinking about writing in a non-journalism way, but beyond that, I can't help but feel maybe I'm just not ready, and that's OK.

January 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDawn another January 1st came as I sat in front of the SAME manuscript. It's my first. I thought I would knock it out in 6-7 months (that was in 2010) UMMMM, NO. But I work 4-5 days a week and so far have about 90,000+ words, 4 sections and 40 chapters. Finally pulling it all together now.

I read your posts often Allison and all I can say is YES, YES, YES. As a former sales person who said, "The phone doesn't ring by itself." I say your words often, "My book will not write itself!" Great post!

January 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGina

I have thought about a ' get it down on paper ' idea for some time.

Your post is helpful, and relevant, because it states to me, clearly, that no one is going to type the first word for me.

I have been thinking I have lot's of time to ' get started '.

Now I see the truth....I don't want to start will be hard.

Thank you.

January 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRich

Yes, yes, yes! LOVE. THIS. POST. Showing up to the page is hard work, regardless of what television and Hollywood's caricature of writers may promise. Now I just suggest they read Ann Lamott's Bird by Bird (on writing). It's one author/writing instructor's amusing take on what writing truly entails, with plenty of truisms and sage advice sprinkled throughout.

January 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda A Janssen

Let me translate. When the eye-rollers say they really want to write a book, they actually mean that they really want to have written a book. They want to be in the author interview phase, the attention-getting phase, the "cash my royalty check" phase. They never meant that they want to be in the day-to-day, hey-this-is just-like-work writing phase. They view the process as two weeks of writing, 20 years of adoration. I am grateful for their lethargy. At least my manuscript won't ever be buried in the slush pile under theirs.

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMolly Dugger Brennan

This post is perfect. Brief, succinct, and clear as a shot of Patron. My first published book isn't out until May, but I've already had three people say "Congratulations (pause, two, three) I'm pretty sure I have a book in me..." My reaction, with each one, was genuine excitement and supportive encouragement, but I have a feeling once the three multiplies a few times I will be pointing them to this post.

So glad you went with the Tough Love!

January 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGretta
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