Many people find just the idea of writing a book frightening. I’ve heard it described as putting out to sea in a rowing boat, hoping you’ll eventually reach land but aware of the dangers of storms and disasters on the journey.
I don’t think of it that way. If I had to make a comparison, it would be like an artist standing in front of a huge blank canvas. He has a palette of wonderful colors that he can combine to create new and exciting shades. He can paint with dashing, bold swathes or delicate strokes. He can do anything he wants with the blank canvas, and his mind is filled with exciting possibilities. So it is with starting a book, particularly a novel.
If you have a burning desire to write, don’t discourage yourself by believing “I’m too ordinary.” No, you are extraordinary and unique. You are the only person who can write the book inside you because, even if it’s fiction, it is still made out of your beliefs, your prejudices, the jokes you laughed at, the songs you sang. You can create characters from the essence of people you loved or hated, admired or lost but still yearn for. However to go the distance and write a complete book, you need an almost demonic compulsiveness. There is no guarantee it will ever be published, but the New York Times Book Review estimates that first novels have a one in ten chance. It’s a highly competitive field, but you may just be the one.
Writing a novel differs from writing a short story, which usually focuses on one particular incident and its ramifications, and perhaps the way it changes the hero or heroine’s life. In the novel, with its 60,000 plus word length, you have the scope for a much more complex plot. You can span many decades or cover just 18 days as Tom Clancy did in “The Hunt for Red October.” My novel “The Pomegranate Pendant” covered almost a century in Jerusalem; and my novel “Esther” also spans close to 40 years. The novelist decides what he or she will tell you about certain characters in a particular place, who live at a certain time. You get a rush of power to know that you can put any words or philosophy you wish into their mouths, any thoughts into their minds.
The act of writing a book need not take years. None of my 14 books took more than six months to complete, some much less, even when I still had a full-time job. You should aim for a minimum output of 3 pages a day … anyone can do that. With that quota, in just 90 days, you will have the first draft of an average-size book.
Be completely selfish about your writing time.Choose a place to be alone and undisturbed, at the time of day you feel most creative. I prefer writing with pen and paper and transferring it to my computer later, especially for fiction. I don’t like technology to interfere with the creative process. Don’t wait for inspiration. Only 10% is inspiration; the other 90% is perspiration.
How is it done? Sit down. Don’t doodle or dawdle. Don’t even go to the bathroom during your writing time unless kidney stones would result. Don’t take phone calls. Try to go into a trance in which your characters come to life. They’ll take over and tell you what they want to say and do. Keep the rhythm of work going until you’ve completed your word quota. Then each day will be a triumph.
Writing is the best therapy. Use it to dissipate anger, to celebrate life and to express joy. Put conflict in your novel to keep the pages turning. When it’s finished, try for a good agent – an ineffective one (which I once had) is useless. Actually I sold my first 8 books without an agent, but now that I have one in New York it has made a great difference in that I get better terms in my contracts. If you can’t get an agent, don’t despair. Write a very creative book proposal consisting of a 1-page synopsis, a one-page letter about yourself and not more than 2 chapters to the publisher of your choice. If interested, he will ask to see more. Don’t expect a reply unless you enclose stamps or international reply coupons to cover postage. Or, of course, you can do it by e-mail.
You will have rejections … all writers do. Just re-submit until someone likes it. If finally your book is published, and you hold a copy in your hands, the thrill is like giving birth. You have created this miracle and readers will be able to share your eyes. And the long, lonely effort (for writing is a lonely occupation) is well-rewarded.
Thomas Wolfe wrote: “If a man has a talent and cannot use it, he has failed. If he has a talent and uses only half of it, he has failed. If he has a talent and learns somehow to use the whole of it, he has succeeded and won a satisfaction and a triumph few men ever know.”
Happy writing. You can contact me direct at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would copies of any of my books.