Writing a Book
If Writing a Book is high on your own List of Things to Do One of These Days, you’re in good company: it’s said that most people feel they have a book inside them, if only they could find the time to write it.
I’ve thought about this quite often since the publication of my first novel, The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society and it seems that the most helpful ingredient in actually writing a book is an elusive item referred to as a Round Tuit – something I saw hanging on a wall behind the counter in a gift shop years ago, at a time when I had no time to get round to anything much.
TIME is one of the things I get asked about a lot: How long did it take you to write a novel? How much time do you need to set aside per day/week?
OTHER POPULAR QUESTIONS include:
Where do you start? Do you know exactly what will happen in each chapter of the book?
Where did you get your inspiration from? Do you base your characters on real people?
Do you think that creative writing can be taught, or is creativity a ‘gift’ that some people are born with?
TEN STATEMENTS ABOUT WRITING A BOOK that I won’t immediately want to contradict
1) I can only speak from my own experience of more than 25 years of writing, and half a century of reading books.
2) Methods/techniques that suit one writer, won’t suit everyone
3) Methods/techniques that have worked for one novel won’t necessarily work for that author’s next novel.
4) The craft of writing a book can be learned
5) It’s not possible to ‘learn to write’ creatively without actually getting round to writing something
6) The act of writing can, itself, stimulate ideas
7) Anyone setting out to teach creative writing needs to be constantly aware of (2) and (3)
If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing imperfectly. (i.e. if you’re determined to achieve perfection right from the start, you’ll never get beyond the first few pages of your book
9) You need to keep adjusting the balance between your internal critic and your creative flow
10) Persistence contributes about 90% towards success in writing a book
I started this blog because I wanted to share what I have learned about writing novels (and poetry too) and I’ve been surprised by how useful this reflective process has been in deepening my understanding of what works for me, and what I need to do to further develop my work.
When I start to answer questions posed by writers’ and/or readers’ groups , I almost always find that I have to contradict at least some of my statements. E.g. I might say that I start with general themes, then create the characters and then their stories. But as soon as I hear myself , I realise that it sounds like a clear, chronological process, when in fact it doesn’t happen like that.
To be honest, once I’ve made a start, it’s hard to know which of these comes first, as they tend to unfold all together , piece by piece as I write. As for the details of the story, I write to find out what will happen next.
I always learn something from listening to other writers talk about their work, so here are some links to various parts of my blog which you might find interesting and/or useful:
The importance of knowing when to re-write, and when to stop!
The importance of a clear category for your novel:
A useful way of categorizing types of novels
How ‘real life’ can find its way into books
The importance of ‘place’ in my novels
Some of the nitty-gritty of publishing a book
The importance of persistence if you want to get published
How a writer’s dreams sometimes come true!