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How to write a book

Writing a book is easy — as easy as 1, 2, 3!

  1. Start writing

  2. Don’t stop

  3. Finish when the book is done

OK, maybe that’s a bit facetious. However, when all is said and done, it’s accurate. I’ve said it before — writing a book is easy, provided you don’t stop. Of course, that also makes it pretty hard.

But I guess I still get confused when people ask “how” to write a book. I mean, what is it that they want to know? If they don’t know how to write, perhaps a book is not for them.

So what is it that people want to know? How to plan? How much to write per day? Where to write? What to do with ideas? In reality, it’s probably all of this, plus more.

In the end, though, it all comes down to one thing — a book isn’t a book until the damned thing is actually finished. Then, and only then, you can say you’ve written a book. Even if you don’t publish it.

But not if you don’t finish it.

So the basic premise is this. Choose the idea you want to write about. Develop it a little — create some characters, give them a reason to exist, and a reason to be doing whatever it is they are doing in the book. Think of the overall story arc, and how that affects the character arcs within. Try to avoid planning a massive series because, well, you haven’t even written a book yet, how do you think you are going to write FIVE (although yes, some people have)?

Once you’re happy with your idea, and you have a reasonable understanding of where to start and where to go… then start writing, and don’t stop until it’s done. And don’t be distracted by other ideas — even (or perhaps especially?) if they seem like a better idea. Is it really a better idea than the one you spent time to develop and create story arcs for? Really?

There will be times when you will stop. Some people call this “writer’s block”, mostly because the term has been romanticised by time. It could be due to a number of reasons, from as simple as being busy — or even just lazy! — to more complex reasons, like burnout (a real thing, trust me). However, I find the general cause of my “writer’s block” is simply coming to a point in the story where I am confused on the direction. I don’t know where the story is headed, so I don’t know where to start.

Part of that is my problem — I’m one of those pesky planners, you see. Others would just suggest you write and see what happens. But that’s not me… Usually, I wait until I have that epiphany (often in the shower), where the story progression suddenly comes to me. Then I smash out five or six chapters in a row.

If that’s not the problem? Then, for me, it’s usually burnout. Time heals.

In the end, we are all different. How to write will differ from person to person, but the point is to write. And (I know I’m sounding like a broken record here) to not stop until it’s done.

And guess what? Where to wite doesn’t matter. What you write on doesn’t matter. You want to write by hand? Go for it (but keep in mind you’ll have to type it up at some point, so you may as well just bite the bullet and join us here in the future already). You like old school type writers? Have at it! Whether you write in a dark room, or a cafe, or deep in a forest surrounded by cheerful creatures whistling Disney tunes at you — it’s up to you. Wherever you can write is the place where you should write.

If there’s one thing that should be shining through in all of my advice, it’s that it’s all up to you. There is no golden guide to writing a book. There is no recommended method that will lead to a best seller — it’s all on you, and your ability to write a compelling story.

So if someone tells you that you absolutely have to sit in a log cabin out in the woods, listen to Bach’s Brandenberg Concerto, drink top shelf whiskey and eat only foods foraged from the forest, all while writing by hand using a Quill that you acquire yourself from a forest-dwelling bird? Don’t listen. Write on an old laptop opn the floor in your undies, if you want, surrounded by Cheetos and empty bottles of Mountain Dew. Whatever it takes.

Just write.

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