So You Think You Should Write A Book?
The difference between talent versus talent and hard work is generally the quality of the finished product. I have read more than one Twitter rant from an author who received a post or a review or a rejection that cruelly said things like, “The story dragged, but it was better than the spelling, punctuation and structure. The author should probably not write any more books.” Then the person who was on the receiving end of the Tweet or review goes on to complain about the brutality of the comments. Whenever I read one of these posts, my initial thought is, “Well, did your spelling, punctuation and structure suck?” If the answer is more or less yes, then stop whining and rewrite the story and make it better.
Here are a few things to ponder if you think you should write a book. Let’s forget the story for just a few minutes and talk about “writing” the story. I’m going to ask you a few questions that need to be answered before you can write something that someone other than your Mom would think is worth reading.
Do you know how to spell?
Do you know how to use proper punctuation?
Do you know how to form an interesting and readable sentence?
Do you know how to write an interesting and readable paragraph or chapter?
Do you know how to write a story that captures the reader’s interest and flows smoothly from beginning to end?
*** HERE IS THE BIG ONE! *** Are you willing to learn how to do all the things listed above, and more?
Once you have learned to do all of those things, and after you have written your story, are you willing to re-write it five or ten times? (or more).
Are you willing to take advice from other writers?
Are you willing to hire a professional editor and listen to and follow their advice?
Are you willing to learn how to format your book correctly and professionally, and if not, are you willing to hire someone to do it?
If you are not willing to do all of the items listed above, then you should stop writing your book right now. Don’t write one more word. It’s really that simple. If you think I’m being too harsh then imagine that someone says that they want to be a professional basketball player, but they don’t want to put in the work and effort and time to learn how to dribble, pass and shoot. And they don’t want to listen to criticism from other players or coaches. And when they are rejected, they don’t want to double down on their efforts and try even harder than before. It sounds nonsensical doesn’t it? How enjoyable would it be to go to an NBA game and watch players with that sort of commitment? Or imagine someone wants to be a pilot, but they don’t want to learn everything there is to learn about flying a jet. Do you want to be a passenger on their plane? Imagine someone wanting to be a surgeon, but they want to skip a lot of the classes like how to properly stitch a wound. Update your Will before surgery. Writing a novel is no different than any other skill. If you just throw a story together without any knowledge of how to do it, then you have no business thinking that many readers would or should be interested in reading your work.
But wait, there’s more!
Let’s for just a moment presume that you have done everything listed above and you have learned all the mechanics of writing. Newsflash! You still need a good story that is worth reading. And when I say it’s worth reading, again, I mean to someone other than your Mom. A lot of people write about their own lives and there’s nothing wrong with that, presuming that your intent is to leave a legacy of sorts for your children or grandchildren. The point being, unless you have done something exceptionally interesting in your life, nobody really wants to read your story. For example, I have lived in six countries and all over the USA. I’ve written novels and I was in the Air Force. I’ve sailed (a little), got drunk in Caribbean bars and visited Cuba and went to Yugoslavia when it was still part of the USSR, and I have done a few other interesting tidbits. With that said, the only way I could write a book about my life that would be interesting enough to draw an audience and capture their imagination would be to tell a bunch of lies. That’s why I make things up and I write novels. Nobody really cares about my “sort of” interesting life. A few chapters into the story, if they made it that far, readers would be yawning.
And if you are writing novels, there is a key element that must always be present. Believability. Don’t confuse that with logical reality. Sci-fi is often far-fetched, but within the realm of Sci-fi, good stories are believable. Fantasy is fantasy, but the story still needs to make sense within the framework of the genre. The same goes for mysteries, romance, war and politics, westerns, and the list could go on. If the one in a million event falls perfectly into place in almost every chapter in order to allow the story to continue to move forward, the story will not feel believable. It’s not as simple as just throwing a sort of interesting plot together and basking in the praise of family and friends. They are biased and dare I say, they often lie in order to escape that awkward discomfort of telling you that your story is not very good.
This is just one little blog, so volumes of writing advice is not going to be included. But let me share just one small piece of advice. I’ve often been told, if you're going to do something, then do it right. That’s a golden rule for writing a book. Do it right. Put in the work and make it something that you are going to be proud of after the thrill of writing your first book has worn off. I believe the phrase you hear about great stories is that they stand the test of time.
Perhaps your book won’t be a classic handed down through the centuries, but ten years after you finish it, you still want to be proud of it. Give it your best or don’t write it. That would be my advice.