Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Writing a Book is Easy, Right? #OurAuthorGang

Writing is easy. You just sit by your computer and write. Right?

A few months ago a friend came for a visit. I was in middle of writing a novelette and didn't want to lose my thoughts on a crucial dialog, so I told her to make herself comfortable and give me a few minutes to finish it.

"Sure, no problem, "she said. "I'll make coffee and I have a few calls to make, anyway. Take your time."

She sat on the couch and by the time I finished about two pages, she took care of a few calls.
"Let me see what you wrote," she came over to my desk and looked at my screen.

I opened the document and told her, "I only have about ten pages written but if you want to read it, here it is."

She sat down, read the pages and she said, "It sounds great! You know, I should write a book too. I have a gazillion ideas and writing can't be that hard. How does it feel when your book is finished and published?"

"Writing a book is one of the most challenging and rewarding things I've ever done. When I hold the finished book... it's like..."

"That's it then! I'm going to write one and you will help me publish it."

Knowing her flighty nature, starting ten projects at the same time and never finish any, I said, "Well, anyone can write a book but I have to tell you that it takes serious determination, patience, and hard work to actually finish it."

"So how do you start writing a book?"

"Every writer develops their own way of writing a book. Some writers, like me, write a rough draft and go with the flow of thoughts and ideas and then rewrite, cut out parts or adds new parts, and then edit the story. Others take it slow and think about each and every word and sentence before they write it down, so their story is finished when they write 'The End'."

"What do I do first?"

"Well, pick a genre to start with. Don’t base this choice on what genres sell best, but write what you like to read. Write a story as if you're writing it for yourself."

"I want to write romance. I love romance stories. How do I start?" 

"First, create a biography for each of your characters."

"What do you mean biography? They're not real."

"If you want your readers to enjoy the story, you need to create characters that seem real."

"Oh, right! How do I do that?

"Let's say your main character is a woman. What does she look like? How old is she? What is her name? Where does she live? Is she rich, poor, or middle-class? Is her personality easy going, shy or self-assured? Questions like these will help you to deepen her character and make her seem real."
"Cool! I can do that."

"Then you need to think about the sub-characters and plot. Who are they, how do they meet and interact with each other, what do they want, what do they do, what or who stands in their way of reaching their goal, and how the story will end."

"Oh, it's like you have the story outline in your head and then you start writing."

"Yes, and as you write, you might change your characters and the plot and you might even discard the outlines you originally wrote as you experiment with characters and plots. This is when push yourself creatively and go with it as the ideas flow in your mind and eventually, this rough patchwork of thoughts, ideas, and plotlines will come together to make a story."

"I have an idea... it's like my favorite fantasy but, of course, the guy in my fantasy is constantly changing. I'm going to write the story about my favorite fantasy guy who meets a shy girl when vacationing at a ski resort. He might sprain his ankle and she keeps him company and then they will make passionate love by the crackling fire."

"Sounds great!"

She stayed a few hours and excitedly chattered on and on about her ideas, "No, they will meet on a cruise because she can show off her perfect curves in a bikini and he... No, wait! He would be a painter and she commissions him to paint her portrait. Better yet, she would be a doctor and saves his life..."

By the time she left, she came up with about ten different scenes and plot. "I'll call you and let you know how it's going," she said and started the two hours drive to get home before dark. 

She called a few times a day for about two weeks. She developed her characters nicely but every time she called, she had a different idea for the plot.

She will work it out, I thought. If she gets stuck, she will ask for help. Months went by and I finished and published the novelette I was working on. I sent it to her and she called, "I love it! Wow! What a great story and I love the ending most."

She didn't mention her book anymore when we talked and when I asked about it, she changed the subject. I didn't mention it for a long time but after a few conversations about everything else, I asked her how the story is going.

"She said, "I'm done. I'm finished!"

"Great!" I replied, thinking that she had finished the book. "Send it to me, let me read it, and then I'll help you to publish it."

"Right! Let me send you what I have. Check your email in a few minutes."

She hung up but what she said and how she said it didn't sound like a happy writer who just finished a book, so I was anxiously waiting for the bling of my email alert.

When the email arrived, instead of a manuscript, she sent me this picture as an attachment:

Then I got a text message from her: "Got it? That's ALL I HAVE!!! I wasted six @%&* months to write THAT!!!"

Oh, boy! I thought and I called her. "What happened? The beginning sounds great, why don't you continue writing?"

"Why?" she shouted. "Why? Because I wrote three pages and then I changed my mind about the plot and deleted it. Then I wrote five pages but I had another idea and deleted that one too. I've been doing that for six @%&* months nonstop. Write, delete. Write again, don't like it, delete again."

"I'm so sorry to hear that. Is there anything I can help with?"

"Yeah, just... write your stories and let me read them. And, never, ever mention it again that I should write a book. Okay? I saved this on my computer as a reminder to never, ever attempt to write a book, again. And don't you tell me that writing is easy, okay?"

"Well, I never said that writing is easy. All I said was that writing a book is one of the most challenging and rewarding things I've ever done."