In my travels as a news reporter in my local community, one of the most common things people tell me when they learn I am an author is, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.”
I usually ask them, “Why not get started?” Their answers vary, and one of the most common reasons for not writing a book is time, and number two is intimidation about actually getting it finished.
The most common question I am asked about fiction writing is, “How do I write a book?”
Sometimes the best way to write a book is to simply start writing. Think about the idea and get those words on the page.
The percentage of people who begin writing a book and finish it is a far smaller number than those who start writing a book. Computers around the world contain the first three chapters, or five chapters, of countless unfinished novels.
Maybe you are a rabid fiction fan and maybe there’s a story burning inside you. If you’re sitting there reading this and have wondered about writing a book, here are a few questions to ask yourself.
Why do I want to write this book? Maybe you want to be published. Maybe you write because you think you have a great idea you want to one day share with the world. You will need to find something to motivate you to keep at it, when life sidetracks you. Because the writers’ world does not contain many full-time writers. Most writers need to have another means of income to support themselves and their families (think: struggling artist). I guarantee you, even if you think you have three hours a day to put your hind end in a chair and your fingers on a keyboard, those three hours will evaporate faster than water in July in Texas. Find your why, and it will help you carve out time in the evenings, on the weekends, during a lunch break while your coworkers are advancing to the next level of Candy Crush.
Ask yourself: Am I an outliner, or a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer? Some writers need to outline, to find some kind of order to their story before they begin writing. Others find the need to jump into the story and start writing. And still others find they are a combination of the two. They need a basic idea to get started, but they also need the freedom to pull away from the story, if for a little bit, as they discover nuggets they didn’t expect when first starting out. I like to have a plan, but I’m also in that last group.But it feels like a school assignment, you’ve probably over-thought things.
What is stopping me from getting started? Like I said, even if you have three or four hours a day to devote to writing, anything and everything can and will come up to suck those precious seconds and minutes away. A phone call, an email, an appointment, a friend will call or stop by. There are dozens of other things that can pop up and you’ll find that chapter half-written, the outline or idea abandoned yet again. Clear away those obstacles and become jealous of the time you do have, and get started.
Now, I’ll take my own advice and go write another scene. I have a book to finish!
Kimberly Rose Johnson says
Great advise. :)
I had those aspirations, long ago but as you said life gets in the way.
linderellar at yahoo.
Melanie Pike says
I’ve completed at least 4 books–a couple of them at least twice!–and have many others waiting for me to finish. I’m one who allows procrastination, other duties/obligations, fear, lack of self-discipline/self-worth, etc., etc., ad nauseum, to get in my way. Oh, and I am a definite pantser. If anyone ever hears of me outlining a novel, they should check to make sure the real me wasn’t replaced with an android. ;-)
Lindi PetersonLindi P says
Melanie–I am a panster, too!!
Lindi PetersonLindi P says
What I found is that when I wrote “The End” for the first time—I was addicted to finishing! The feeling of writing/typing those words doesn’t go away
Merrillee Whren says
Even published authors allow life to get in the way. I do that on a daily basis. :)
Melanie Pike says
Merrillee, that is encouraging to hear! I just need to learn how to prioritize which is something I’ve struggled with for many years…
Lee Tobin McClain says
Lynette, I love how positive and encouraging you are toward aspiring writers. So many people have this drive to write within them, but it takes courage and support to get ‘er done.
Autumn Macarthur says
Great advice, Lynette! I was one of those writers with a lot of story ideas and one and a half chapters of the books, for way too many years!
I am a reader not a writer….and even for me, my intents are good to sit and read a book in an afternoon, but things come up and it absolutely drives me crazy….lol!! By the time I go to bed, I can only get through a chapter or two before my eyes start feeling droopy. I can see where it would be probably worse for the writer, especially on a deadline (?). I think you have some great sound advice Lynette! Taking it in smaller chunks (even reading) does help to attain your goal!
I guess I can only come from the perspective of a reader :-)
Stacey Jones says
When I was a teenager I used to write short stories and dream of writing some epic fantasy or sci-fi novel. However, life didn’t leave time for writing and so many years have passed that I wonder if I could even recapture the creativity and energy I had back then. Not to mention that my tastes and interests have changed dramatically! I do enjoy writing devotions for our church’s Advent and Lent seasonal booklets. Your blog has me wondering if God would inspire me to write and if so, what would it be?
Many years ago I wrote short stories to share with my friends in high school. Sometimes they would help with suggestion and ideas. It was fun and I did dream of maybe having someone review my work to see if I could ever be a true writer. A teacher did finally look at what I ha and suggested I try submitting it to a magazine. I never did. Life got in the way. Those short stories got lost in the moves over the years but I still some unfinished things that are very old but I have a hard time throwing them away. Once I had children and became a single mom when they were very small, that became my main focus. Now I lose myself in a good book and have become very good at not letting life interrupt too much. I don’t think much about writing anymore. I believe I have done what the Lord wanted me to do and I am continuing doing that with helping with my grandkids. That is why I love authors who share advise and encourage those out there who think they have something to write, to share with all us avid readers. Keep it up.
Valerie Comer says
As someone who didn’t pursue writing until I was 44, this is advice I could have used back then! So easy to have vague dreams and then fritter time away. I think this goes for any calling or hobby or aspiration. Much easier to dream about it than do it. Or maybe it is just me.
Andrea Cox says
Lynette, thank you for posting this! I’ve been struggling lately with which project(s) to take on, or to set my pen aside for a while. These questions really helped me hone my focus. That, and the Lord’s recent nudging. Perfect timing for the two things to work together.