…and let’s see where we go. I did say this is about writing, remember? I wish there were a secret formula to writing, but if there is, I haven’t found it yet. Well, that’s not true: I have found the secret formula, but it’s not what I wanted, and so for most of my life, I’ve just ignored it. My own system hasn’t worked very well, and so I’ve decided to go back and give The Writer’s Secret Magical Formula® a try. What’s that? Just what is the magic formula? Well, that’s the catch, isn’t it? The formula itself is quite simple; it’s the doing it that is where most of us have trouble. But since you’ve asked, I suppose I’m obliged to tell you, so here it is: Writing is hard work!
I told you it was trouble. How much hard work? Well, that depends on you, really. How do you define “hard”? How about it I just tell you what’s involved, and then you can decide if it’s too much for you.
- “A writer writes.” Billy Crystal’s character in Throw Momma From The Train had that advice for his writing students. Overly simplistic, perhaps. But let’s face it: books don’t write themselves. They require an author. If that’s you, then you need to accept a few realities besides this one.
- Writing requires a commitment. And often, that commitment involves sacrifice. Do you have a full-time job? Are you a full-time student? No, I’m not going to tell you to quit; I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid! But I am going to tell you that unless that’s all you do in your life (your job or your school), you’re going to have to give up something. It’s simple physics: you only have a specific number of hours in a day, and every minute you spend doing something else is a minute you take away from writing.
So you’ll need to examine what it is you spend your time doing, and decide what you can give up. Do you spend 3 hours a day on Facebook? World of Warcraft? SecondLife? Are any of those more important to you than becoming an established writer? Or are you willing to make the sacrifice (there’s that word again), leave the virtual world for a couple of hours every day, and accomplish something in the real world?
- If you’re willing to do that, then you need to decide how much time you’re willing to invest. In her excellent book, How To Write an eBook in 40 Days, Brandy Miller says
I recommend targeting 1500 words per chapter, which gives you a finished book length of 60,000 words. Then make a commitment to hit that chapter word count every single day. If you think you can’t hit 1500 words every day, but maybe you can do 500, commit to doing that. If you want to write your book in less time, obviously you’ll need to increase your word count commitment.
- Put away the books. I can’t tell you how many books I own that tell how to write a book, but I will tell you this much: they are all a great distraction. They’re perfect for when I want to “research” for my novel. At least that’s what I tell people I’m doing when they ask me “How’s the novel coming along?” And since none of them are writers, they just smile and nod and say “Good luck!” And I go back to reading, instead of actually writing my book. Besides, do you really need a book to tell you how to write a book? I will go out on a limb here and say NO! You DON’T need to read a book to tell you how to write a book. Just make the commitment and start writing!
- “But Robyn,” you say. “What about all those books that tell you how to set up your work area, and what style guides and dictionaries to keep at hand?” Hey, I have no problem with any of them—except when you spend too much time reading them instead of actually writing. (Are you beginning to see a pattern here? Can you sum it up in three words? I can: “A writer writes.”) Yes, those books are full of excellent advice, and you really should read them…but read them before you start writing. That’s not to say not to keep your dictionary handy, but even so, stopping to look up the spelling of a word can derail your train of thought. Besides, doesn’t your writing program have a spell-checker?
Look, you’re not reading this because you want to learn what you have to do to start to get ready to write your book. You want to know what you need to do to actually write it. Everything else is just getting ready. Or, as Adolph Dietrich Friedrich Reinhardt said, “Art is art. Everything else is everything else.”
However, if you are looking for information about learning how to write, I’ll be adding a page with links to tons of resources for you. When I do that, I’ll post the link here.