People often ask me how one goes about writing a book, be it a novel or a memoir. How do you get started? How do you finish? I don’t have a lot of answers but I do know one simple fact: you can’t be a writer if you don’t write. Below are a few things I’ve learned along the way to get me writing. Not foolproof, but helpful, I think. Now and then, I revisit these few rules. I don’t want to make my craft so complicated or get so lost in it I forget the basics.
1 – Give yourself permission to write. Many people think they can’t or shouldn’t write something. Maybe it’s not the time. Maybe other things are more important. Not so! If you want to do it, it’s important. Don’t let family, friends, or circumstances discourage you. If writing is something you want to do then do it! Giving yourself permission is the first step.
2 – Think about what it is you want to write, what you want to say. Fiction or non-fiction? A short story or novel? A memoir, biography, autobiography? It doesn’t have to be big, maybe a couple of pages to start you off. Then put pen to paper, so to speak. Following through is a big part of success in any field.
3 – Find the right set up. You’ll need a quiet place where you can work undisturbed. To be literary for a moment, Virginia Woolf makes this point in A Room of One’s Own. It doesn’t matter if it’s an office with a computer desk or a kitchen table and a tablet. Whatever and wherever you choose, make it your own. Claim it, at least for the span of time you’re writing.
4 – Have the right tools on hand. Notepad, pencils, pens, computer, printer, paper, etc. Be ready for the job of writing. Remember, it’s your job. Approach it that way.
5 – Set up a schedule for yourself and stick to it. Find or make the one time of day when you can concentrate on what you’re doing — writing. Try to choose the same time of day, every day, but if it can’t be that way, go with it. Let everyone around you know this is the time to give you some space. Make it a habit, whether it’s fifteen minutes a day, one hour, or six. Writing is a lot like playing tennis. The more you do it, the better you get. Practice, practice, practice.
6 – Explore the craft of writing. Take classes, read books on subjects that interest you, go to a few lectures. Join a writing group, join a reading group. Make it a living, breathing, attainable craft. Writing can be yours. It can also be a gift for future generations and your family. But most important, it’s what you want to do.