I ventured into the world of book writing a few years ago. I’ve had short stories, poetry, and journalistic articles published, but like many people, I only daydreamed the image of people waiting in an autograph line outside a bookstore at midnight in the winter for Zach Hitt’s (my) upcoming bestseller.
It was like my first time, if you get my drift. You would think that as a twenty year old college student from Troy, NY, I would have the confidence to move mountains, but not so. Even before writing the first sentence, I felt the nerves. However, I still broke out the tool of the trade and took a swing for the fences. It started in a clumsy, messy way. No matter how many people I could show, they’d know that I was green. Sure, I’d tried to write long form before, but nothing I could truly call my own.
But with that, I started a blog called Socially Drecrepit, the goal of which was to keep a record of the transition from short story to full length novel. And hey, I figured, a little publicity never killed anyone. In this post, I’m going to attempt to take the lessons I’ve learned and put them in one place.
1. Stop thinking about the future.
I’ve spoken to a lot of writers who talk and talk and talk and talk about their goals for publication. I’m guilty, too. However, if your fantasising about what your cover art is going to look like, if you’re worried about who you’ll hire as a press contact, you’re not spending time actually writing. Courage2Create put it like this: if you’re thinking about the end product, you’re causing yourself writers block.
Let’s take a look at what we should be doing instead…
2. Write a sentence.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: write a sentence. Don’t put too much thought into the chapter, the part, or the book. Whether this is the first sentence in your outline, or your book, it doesn’t matter. Just get something down on paper.
The first sentence I wrote turned into my hook. I decided that I wanted to outline my book before writing it. One of the biggest problems I faced with my story was understanding how to pace, and how to layout the story. So outlining was my answer, but more on that later.
My point is this: the longer you spend working on your writing style, the better things will end up.
3. Find your comfort zone.
We’ve all heard that annoying cliche, “leave your comfort zone.” When I decided to write a book, that was me leaving the comfort zone. But I soon learned the importance of making things as painless as possible. Take it like this: if you’re going to bungee jump, why would you tie barbed wire around yourself if you have a softer option? Make sense?
As such, I learned to create an environment in which world building became easier. Here’s what it includes: my dog, Freedom (she’s a hyperactive Boarder Collie – Lab who REALLY wants to play!), some music (I like Coheed and Cambria and Falling Up more than anything), and a place either at my dining room table or the front steps.
I’ve learned to write in other places, too, like an air port, or a coffee house, or a library, but I still have my preferences. Find yours.
4. Appreciate the good stuff. Appreciate the bad stuff.
Writing is not a simple game of celebration. No one is completely content with what they write, and I’ve learned that it takes a serious amount of time to improve. On the same end, if you’re spending too much time beating yourself up, you’re not going anywhere.
Find a balance. Anytime you write a bad sentence, figure out how to improve it, and don’t think of yourself as a bad writer. Anytime you write a good sentence, pat yourself on the back.
The first time I wrote something “good” in my first manuscript, called The People Hive, it took until Chapter Five, but I was so excited about the paragraph that I called a bunch of friends and then posted it on Socially Decrepit. Seems a bit overboard, right? Maybe. But it was the first time I felt like I made a major breakthrough.
5. Make Regular Use of the “C Word”
Actually, it’s not what you’re thinking. Early on, I began to realize that it helps to have an extra pair of ears on your work. It is important that you have people around that know how to collaborate, criticize, and corroborate.
Collaboration – a person you can throw ideas around with. I’ve found that it helps to speak out loud about ideas. Others can help you flesh out a plan, or figure out where you might like to throw it. The danger is that you work with a person who does not have a personal boundary between your work and theirs.
Critique – a critic is a person who understands how to politely tell you when something could be executed better. The drawback of this is fairly obvious: if you’re in “writing mode,” and someone is editing you, it may cause writers block. Make sure you finish the chapter first.
Corroboration – a person who sits while you read (aloud) your work to them. Their job is to tell you that they understand or do not understand what you’re trying to say, and that it does or does not make sense.
I’ve found that my family is excellent in all three of these roles. We’ve all sat down for coffee and read something I’ve written. In fact, one particular morning, my brother, father, and I went out for coffee in which I was delivered a particularly ego – shattering speech about the anti climatic climax of my book. As difficult as it was, I attribute my pride in the finished product of my first manuscript to that meeting.
6. Read something
When I read, I do it for enjoyment, but also because I know that a more experienced writer has something to teach me. Additionally, I soon learned that the more I read, the more ability i had to write prose. To learn how to write something horrifying, I read king. To learn how to emotionally connect a character to an audience, I enjoy Conroy. If you want to learn about writing about what’s going on, and nothing fancy, read Karouac.
Bottom line: moving from short to long prose will better your writing. However, it will take time. I speant so long shut away that someone commented after a while that I was Socially Decrepit, which is where the name of the blog comes from. With that, I give you my last piece of advice: get outside and see the sun every once in a while.
Thank you for reading, and I wish you the best on all endeavors.