One of the first responses I usually get when someone finds out I'm an author is, "I've always wanted to write a book..."
My reply? "What's stopping you?"
Yes, I know. You don't have the time right now, you don't know where to start, you're thinking you'll write when the kids are grown or when you retire. But here's the thing: 80% of the population wants to "someday" write a book. About 40% of that total will actually start a writing project. Less than 10% of that total will finish the project, and only 2-4% of those finished products will become published books. Do you know why?
Because writing is hard.
Most writers I know have families, day jobs, and the same twenty-four hours in a day non-writers get. We get up early to write, stay up late to write, use our lunch hours to write.
It's not what you see on television or in the movies. Writers don't just start out with a great idea and set themselves up in a little office with a typewriter. We don't happily bang on the keys for a week before amassing a nice pile of pages which are then sent off to a big publishing house, culminating in a million dollar check and a worldwide book tour two months later.
Every sentence is written, analyzed, rewritten, reanalyzed, researched, and rewritten. I can spend an entire day staring at my laptop screen while my mind scrambles for a perfect synonym for "walked." Strode? Strutted? Tiptoed? Sashayed? The choices are endless--and each one creates a different visual in a reader's mind.
Every scene has to add meaning. Just like in the film industry, a beautiful scene that spent weeks to create could wind up on the cutting room floor before the final product is released to the public. Let's not even talk about the endless rounds of rejections, the scathing critiques and reviews of your work, the pitiful royalties that trickle in...<shiver!>
Those million dollar checks you hear about? Those are like lottery winners: a very select few will ever see them, and there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to why a book becomes wildly successful.
So then, you ask, why do it?
Because a real writer can't not write. We don't write for the money or for fame or for a legacy. We write to put a voice to the hundreds of stories tumbling in our heads at any given moment. (Hundreds. Really.) We write because the more we write, the more we want to write.
If I haven't scared you off yet, congratulations! Maybe you're one of the few who can make it in this crazy business. Welcome to my world. Where do you begin? The Internet is a great place to start.
Google "writing groups" and find a few in your area or online that appeal to you. Ask questions. Soak up answers. Learn. Read. I mean, seriously...READ! Read the style of books you want to write, but also extend yourself outside your comfort level and read other genres, as well. Note the way a favorite author uses a turn-of-phrase or a bit of dialogue to suck you in. Don't copy, simply absorb, and use a similar method in your own work.
Artists in all creative fields have the same advice for a newbie: "Dare to suck." I give you those same three words now. Dare to suck. Give yourself permission to write bad prose, farfetched scenes, and awkward dialogue. Figure out why it sucks, and improve upon it.
November is National Novel Writers Month (NaNoWriMo). Writers all over the country will pledge to start and complete a fifty thousand word manuscript in thirty days. Join in. Whether you finish or not, you'll still be a lot closer to having a complete novel than you are right now.
So you've always wanted to write a book? I ask again: What's stopping you?