People ask me all the time about how to start writing a book, and I think I’m getting more emails about this than I normally do, which means – a lot of emails.
So, I’m going to resurrect this blog about it.
There are basically three components to writing a book or a novel, or anything honestly.
The first part is you have to write
You have to put words to the page and/or computer screen. A lot of people get stuck on this part. There’s no one right way to do it. You can outline the heck out of a book and/or a novel. Or… you can hear a sentence in your head and just go from there and see where the journey takes you. The secret is to not get hung up on how to do the writing or outlining, but to do the writing, which leads me to the second component.
Do not stop writing.
You have to keep writing even when you think your story sucks, even when you think it is pointless. You have to expect self-doubt and write right through it. Stopping because of self doubt is the number one enemy of writers. It is what keeps me from blogging, which to me is much more terrifying than writing a book.
End the Bad Boy.
In order for you to have a book out in the world, you have to write all the way through it to the ending. There are a million books out there and even more ‘almost written’ books. Don’t be an almost. Be a writer.
Here are some more hints.
Write as much as you can. I wrote my first book, TIME STOPPERS (13th published one) in the car on my way to newspaper assignments. I’d make the story up aloud and tell it to my daughter and then write the pages at home when I got a chance. If you write just one page a day, you end up with a draft that’s 356 pages at the end of the year. You know what that is? It’s a book.
2. Keep Track of Your Progress
A lot of the time, I feel like I haven’t written anything or achieved any writing during the day. My mind is evil like that. So to help me keep track, I post a word count at the beginning of the day and the end of the day, too. That way I can see how many words I wrote. When I’m revising, I do it by chapter. I revise a chapter a day and mark it off in my notebook or computer file. It’s good to see that you’ve accomplished things. It’s motivating.
3. Work Every Day
Some writers don’t do this. I do. But I’m trying to take the weekends off. Some writers go on a retreat and work for 24 hours straight, sipping green tea and eating Saltines. I am not one of those writers, but you can be. If you aren’t the binge-type writer, though, make sure you are diligent. Write every day. Think about when you will write. Schedule time to write. Do it. For my first book, I was writing everywhere, on napkins, the back of envelopes, computer files, and I would be in the car waiting to pick up my daughter, at a swim meet (DO NOT JUDGE. SWIM MEETS ARE LONG), waiting for a meeting to start. All those moments of waiting became moments of writing.
4. Give Yourself Goals
I have daily goals, weekly goals and yearly goals. This sounds quite organized. It isn’t, really. I just say things like, “I want to write 5,000 words this week,” or I want to have the necromancer story done by November 1, this revision of a picture book done by December, and so on. Your goals can be big or little, but keep visiting them, remind yourself of them. And be psyched when you achieve them. I give this advice, but I totally fail at the celebration part of writing. When my last book came out, I was training members of Rotary International about public image. I absolutely failed to even have a cupcake to celebrate. DO NOT BE LIKE ME. Give yourself goals and party when you achieve them. You deserve it.
5. Be Okay with Sucking
I am so far from perfect. My writing is far from perfect. The truth is that even the writers that you think are heroic, brilliant, awesome, amazing mess up. They have editors, second editors, agents, friends who help them make their stories the best they can be. The secret is to let others help you. The other secret is to not let your fear of failure freeze you into not making story. We writers are often our own worst enemy and few of us have healthy egos that are okay with criticism, that don’t have self doubt. The thing is to preserve, keep writing.
6. Write More
Once you have your story, revise your story. Revise it again. Study the books you like. Revise again. Study the books you don’t like. Revise again. And write something new. Don’t stop writing. Writing is a craft and the more you do it, the better you become. This is just like all the other arts and crafts. The more you practice piano, the better a pianist you are. The more you sculpt, the better the sculptor. Writers are artisans. Our materials are words. Words are the symbols we put together to create story.
7. Start a blog and find a community
Writing can be lonely. You are in your house or coffee shop or (if you are me) car, writing. If you blog, you can connect to other writers and readers. If you connect, you can find support when you are feeling like throwing your laptop through the window. You can feel less alone.
8. Get Inspired
When I talk to kids about writing, I tell them that to live the biggest lives they can, experience things that are legal and won’t get you thrown in prison or hurt or kicked out of school, have adventures, make friends, listen to people’s conversations. The stories writers tell are about interactions, cause and effect, about things happen. Be a witness. Be a story teller. Live.
WRITING AND OTHER NEWS
IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!
My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!
You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?
HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON
On February first, I’m going to launch my Patreon site where I’ll be reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more.
WHAT IS PATREON?
A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you.
HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED
Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!
BE A PART OF THE PODCAST!
Hey! If you download the Anchor application, you can call into the podcast, record a question, or just say ‘hi,’ and we’ll answer. You can be heard on our podcast! Sa-sweet!
No question is too wild. But just like Shaun does, try not to swear, okay?
Here is the link to the mobile app and our bonus podcast below.
I do art stuff. You can find it and buy a print here.
You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.
People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.
The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?
It’s awesome and quirky and fun.
FLYING AND ENHANCED
Men in Black meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer? You know it. You can buy them here or anywhere. It’s fun, accessible science fiction. Who knew there was such a thing?