How to write a book,  Projects,  Writing

How do I get started?

There’s a simple answer to this question. I get asked it a lot.

The answer is this: You write.

 

Then there is the question: What do I write about?
The answer: Whatever you want to write about.
Basically what people want to know is what is the next step?
1) The next step is actually writing.
Just write. As you keep writing you will figure out whether it’s just easier for you to write on paper or on the screen, in bed or at a desk, indoors or outdoors.
You might also find that what you thought you wanted to write about is very different to what you actually do want to write about. Good thing you found out now rather than later – imagine telling your publisher you’re changing tack halfway through?
Don’t worry about whether it’s enough for book form, whether it’s something people to know about and so on.
First comes the writing. First comes the message, the content. At this point the ideas are coming together.
Then comes the bashing of the content into something people can read and make use of. And you’re a long long long way from that point right now.
2) When you’re comfortable enough (and this can be from one second later to twenty years later) show it to a writer/editor. Preferably let them run riot with a red pen.
If you’re cringing at the idea of someone murdering your darlings (ie: cutting out your best bits) you’re not ready to show it to someone yet. Sometimes your darlings belong in another place or on their own, not overshadowed by something else.
Accepting positive and valuable feedback and criticism is vital to moving on in the process. I still cringe too but I do it anyway. Distinguishing between useful feedback and crappy feedback is also vital which is why I say to show it to an editor/writer. Like me for instance.
And generally showing it to family members results in “It’s good.” which is not useful which is why I bully people into giving me details. Why is it good? Who do you love in it? Why? Who do you hate and why? And so on.
Applying this process to most things you learn by practice is probably a good idea too, FYI.
3) All this is notes stuff so far. Practicing. Depending on what form you’re going for, you might derive a few short pieces or some poetry. Or a good opening line for a book. Something like that. So now what?
Well by this point, through the writing and the feedback, you have (by some weird kind of osmosis) developed a sense for what works and language and so on. You should have developed the habit of objectively critiquing your writing as well by which I mean looking at it and saying “That doesn’t sound right in that spot.” rather than “Oh God, this is cheesy.” I have to say that there will be moments where you cannot dispute the cheesiness of your efforts and at this point it really helps to be honest about the cheesiness but still see what you learnt from the process.
So, create a few things. Short pieces. Manageable stuff. Use what you have learned.
4) Open it up for a wider audience.
Join a writing group, start a blog (have you seen the lovely Janine Ripper’s at http://reflectionsfromaredhead.wordpress.com/ ?), stand at the Speaker’s Corner in the Hay St Mall and declaim loudly – whatever floats your boat.
Yes you can post it here too. We want to see what you have written.
Whatever you do, open it up for comments. You need more than one perspective to catch all the mistakes or all the tweaks that are needed. You do need to sell more than one copy of your book, right?
I wouldn’t advocate posting novel/book chapters online though you can read it out in a writing group. It’s too easy to get it nicked and there might be an issue of copyright when publishing time comes around so please keep that in mind. Try snippets in an online closed forum to which you invite particular people only.

This is where you start thinking about where you want to go with writing. Blogging? Journalism? A book? And so on.
Which leads us to the steps in the process of writing a book and getting published which is another post altogether.
I hope this one helped though. 😀 When in doubt, do what Janine Ripper does.

 

 

Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is usually based in Melbourne but is currently flouncing around in Perth for a week for the Inaugural 2018 KSP - Varuna Foundation Fellowship. She will be at Melbourne's Continuum and online running a Writers' Bloc course in the coming weeks.

2 Comments

  • Welcome To Boredom

    I hope what you meant was to post here? here’s something I just did while I was bored not planning on being a writer or anything. Just for fun to waste some time. 🙂

    Tom was running as fast as he could. He kept slipping now and then but he was still able to keep his balance without breaking anything major. He slammed into a glass door with such tremendous force that for a second there he thought it cracked or maybe he cracked something. He was out of breath and was panting heavily. It was pitching dark except for a few beams of moonlight and blue security lamps that once in a while keeps shinning in through the windows. Else it was dead pitch black.
    He was so desperately trying to find his way towards the main exit or entrance or even the minor staff entrance. All he kept doing was run in circles unaware that he was passing the same water fountain every time.

    Tom was a never the athletic kind. He was never that good at sports and even the sport that he thought he was mildly good at was never something he took seriously. In sports he was never in it to win it, he was just in it for the fun and maybe for social acceptance. He wasn’t the kind who worked day and night at the gym stuffing down energy bars and guzzling down cans of energy drinks just so he could look good at some pool party. The only reason he tried out for the school’s tennis team was because his father urged him to and also because it looked good on a college application.

    Now Tom feels like that was the best decision he made in his entire life. The agility he built up on all those tennis lessons is exactly the reason he was thanking his father for urging him to take up the sport.
    His ears perked up as a sudden clash of weight against metal echoed through the cold hallways of Mead Lake University. All that his mind kept telling him to do was to run and not stop. Now he was hearing footsteps, rapidly approaching footsteps. They were getting close, very close.

    Normally in dire situations like this he would break into such a sweat that his friends often thought that someone gave him a swirly or something but in this case he wasn’t sweating because the hallways were dreadfully cold. This would have been great if he was meeting a girl or something but now he really did need to sweat because he felt his blood pressure rising and his heart pounding as a result. He felt hot as in core of the earth hot and the coldness surrounding his body wasn’t helping him cool down neither was his thick baggy clothing.

    “Damn” Tom cursed under his breath. He was thinking of how stupid he was to sneak into a party he was not formally invited to. This is what happens when you go around poking your nose where it doesn’t belong in he thought. “I hate this place” he swore loudly forgetting that whoever is chasing him would have picked up on the noise since sound tends to echo even on a regular day.

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