Whenever non-writers find out that I wrote I book, I typically get the same reaction: “Oh wow, you wrote a book? I could never write a book.” Lately, this has been bugging me more and more. Not to sound self-righteous or anything, because believe me, I’m not. Like the majority of writers I know, I’m extraordinarily self-deprecating. My husband fusses at me all the time for saying negative things about myself. That being said, I just don’t think writing a book is that amazing of a feat.
Anyone can write a book. Writing a good book? Well, that’s another story. Writing a great book is much harder. Getting published? That’s a completely different ballgame altogether. But writing? You just have to have the desire.
I wrote my first book a few years ago. I’d intended to write others in the past, had started several, but never progressed past the first few chapters. I didn’t sit down with the plan to write a book. I sat down with an idea for a story and started typing. Next thing I knew, I had 10,000 words, then 30,000, then, 50,000. Then I decided to do some research to see how many words a first book was supposed to be. The answer I found (which turned out to not be entirely correct) was 80,000-100,000. Before I knew it, I had 96,000 words. (That particular book has now been cut down to 84,000 and shelved for now. I’m sure when I start revising again that will go down even more).
Now, I can understand not having the time to write. I wrote that first one in a three month span between taking the Bar exam and receiving the results when I had nothing else to do. But then again, I can’t. I wrote my most recent book (a 78,000 word Young Adult) even though I have a full time day job. If you still think don’t have time, start small. Aim for 50,000 words. That’s a typical middle grade novel. Or write a children’s book. If you want to write, you make the time.
I’ve heard others claim they just weren’t creative enough to write a book. So write non-fiction. Write a cookbook. Write short stories or poetry. Write a blog. Still others have claimed they just aren’t good writers. That may be the case, or maybe you haven’t given yourself the chance. You never know until you try. Plus, there are lots of places on the internet, like Absolute Write, where you can post your work anonymously and get feedback and help. Or join a local writer’s group. I do both and I can’t tell you how much my writing has improved since getting help from other writers, and I considered myself a pretty good writer to start with. (Again, not tooting my own horn…okay maybe a little…but I’ve always excelled in my writing courses and spent the first few years of my legal career doing nothing but writing appellate briefs. It’s one area I’m pretty confident in my ability).
When I started writing fiction, I had no idea how to space things, or how to structure dialog. I didn’t realize how weak adverbs made my writing, or how vague I could sometimes be. It’s easy to forget that although you know exactly what you’re talking about, others can’t see inside your head. I must say, being on the trial team in law school also helped tremendously in this area. For example, we were told to bring a picture to class, then had to describe that picture to our classmates without letting them see it. Once we were done, we showed the picture and our classmates told us whether or not they got the correct image in their head. Conveying images through words is a valuable skill in the courtroom, but I highly recommend this exercise for anyone who wants to write as well. My point is, there are resources you can use to improve your writing, so don’t let the concern that you’re not good enough keep you from trying.
I can see where writing a book might be a challenge to someone with a learning disability, such as dyslexia, or someone with chronic health problems. I can even see the challenge for a book that requires extensive research. But, I know people who have overcome all of these mountains and more and written books. Full time students and stay at home moms, retirees and those in the work force. It doesn’t have to be done in a month or two, it doesn’t even have to be done in a year. It just has to be done.
If you’re one of those people who is in awe of someone who can write an entire book, don’t be. Be in awe of the good books, the great books, the published books, but always keep in mind that just writing something isn’t that big a deal. You can do it too. You could even write something good, or great, or published. You just have to try.