For the most part, I think I’m met with a lot of raised eyebrows when I tell people I’ve written a book.
Them: ‘What do you do?’
Me: ‘I’m a writer, currently unpublished.’
Them: With feigned interest, ‘Oh me too, totally, I mean I have, like, really great ideas and stuff for a book but have never actually, like, written seriously, ya know? It’s, like, so time-consuming. But I write, like, a lot on Twitter ya know? And I’ve been meaning to start a blog cause people all the time tell me they would totally read my stuff if I wrote it down or whatever.’
Me: ‘Uh huh.’
Them: With less interest, ‘So what do you write about?’
Me: ‘I’ve written a book. It’s in the genre of Southern Gothic, roughly 440 pages. I also blog because for some reason that’s important to agents so I try to keep up with what they expect to see. My manuscript is currently being edited and I’ll likely pursue e-publishing, pending the edited results.’
Them: Quietly, ‘Oh.’
I’m floored how often this conversation, or something like it, comes up. It is true what agents and publishers say, everyone wants to write a book, very few actually do. What they really mean to say is everyone has an IDEA for a book but not the discipline to convert an idea into a story.
Writing, in this respect, is absolutely in line with any other major goals in life, like exercising or healthy eating. The discipline, the habit, does not form by itself. It has to be nurtured into existence and then its maintenance becomes easier over time.
Like all new life changes that are important time has to be carved out for them. I made the decision to write down the idea I’ve had floating in my head for years and that meant sacrificing time and money – my family’s time and money. I’ve had the benefit of being a full-time parent who could work from home. This is a luxury I am well aware of, however, that meant spending money to place my then 3-year old into daycare so I could work, or rather I could work MORE and with no guarantee of a payoff. To say writing requires motivation as well as discipline is something of an understatement.
I developed an 8-10 hour a week writing schedule in-between my other obligations, and those hours could never slack. On the days I didn’t feel well, or just “didn’t feel like writing,” I made myself write anyway. It may have been garbage but at least garbage can be fixed, you can’t fix a blank page. Outside of those scheduled hours, I wrote at night when everyone went to bed. I wrote on the weekends and first thing in the morning. My sticking to a plan meant having something to show at the end of my efforts. I mean, dude! I wrote a book! It’s beginning, ending and everything in-between is all down to me.
Like everything in life, the more you practice a thing, the better you get at said thing. Writing is no different. Your story may be brilliant but it will come out as crap at first. So keep fucking writing. The stuff you write becomes less crappy, you find your voice, you find your characters’ voices, the pace picks up and your work becomes less crappy.
That was my experience in a nutshell. Eight months later, I had my first draft hovering at about 520 pages. After my first round of editing, I cut a lot of the crap and ended up at 480 pages. My third draft (yes, I said “third”) got me down to my current 441 pages. I handed the thing over to a professional editor because, at this point, I need another pair of eyes, professional eyes that know what to do next. The point is, I did the heavy lifting. I’ve written a book, only time will tell if I’m published or not but in total honesty, I can say I’m one of those who went beyond, ‘I have an idea for a book.’