That is one long title, but it’s useful, as you’ve been throughly warned should you decide to take up the vocation.
So, how to write a book. I would imagine every writer has a different answer. Here’s my process in 6 easy steps.
Write it all out.
Dump out onto the paper all the clichés, the plot gaps, the really, really terrible dialogue, cheesy metaphors, sentence fragments, things you’re trying to say but can’t quite express just right, lots and lots of dangling participles (I don’t actually remember what these are but I’m sure I inadvertently dangle). The point is, just write out the story even if it’s not good. FACT: It’s not going to be good. When I go back and reread a novel I’ve just finished, it’s mostly terrible with a great line here and there and some glimmer of promise. I don’t get greedy beyond that.
Figure out what in the world you’re going to do with this unholy mess.
Once you have written a full draft, you will be left with an unholy mess. I visualize it as a tangled pile of spaghetti. So, my tactic is to, in essence, exacerbate the problem. I write out several lists consisting of my thoughts, general musings that may or may not have anything to do with this novel, of parts that need to be changed, need to be written, need to be eliminated. I write all kinds of notes on different sized pads of paper, assorted stickies, the napkin I find on the floor of the car while I’m driving and suddenly think of something I’ll never remember if I don’t write it down right then. Don’t worry—this is at least 85% safer than it sounds. And anyhow, everyone wears a seat belt now. When I was a kid no one did—if your car even had them, they were shoved down into the seats. So really, I’m ahead of the game here. It’s a crucial aspect of step 2, and only you can determine your level of dedication.
Organize the unholy mess.
Now you must take all that stuff from step 2 and write each thought, general musing that may or may not have anything to do with this novel, everything that needs to be written, eliminated, altered etc. (there will be a multitude of “etc.”) on about 3,000 index cards. All this effort results in a good old-fashioned clusterf*%@k. You should also use at least 3 different colored inks to create a complicated color-coded plotting system.
Sort that clusterf*%@k.
I’m not going to try to mislead you here: this part pretty much sucks. You will have no idea how to order all those cards and incorporate them into the story you’ve already written. It will seem impossible. You will stare out the window for long periods of time. You will get up and organize the junk drawer. And the spice cabinet. And the coat closet. You will curse your stellar organizational skills once you have nothing left to organize and must return to the clusterf*%@k. You must sit back down and stare out the window until one day out of nowhere while on a walk in the favorite part of your neighborhood while reading a great book (At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier), it will suddenly become crystal clear to you exactly how to organize this novel! (Disclaimer: This might not happen exactly this way for you. It could be a different book, for example.) Then with your new understanding fresh in your mind, you sit down with your 3,000 cards and you sort that mess and guess what?! No more clusterf*%@k!! Now write, following your sorted-out card system.
One word: edit.
The best advice I ever heard in grad school (and I heard a lot) was from writer and teacher Bobbie Louise Hawkins: “The good writing comes out in the editing.” Here’s where you write out all the clichés, fill in the plot gaps, fix all the really, really terrible dialogue, delete all the cheesy metaphors and write interesting ones, dump (but keep some for texture) sentence fragments, iron out the things you’re trying to say but couldn’t quite express just right in the first draft, Google what the hell dangling participles are and reword those awkward sentences. In short—write your story better.
Repeat step 5.
Like, a trillion times until someone—if you’re lucky—makes you stop.
Okay, now I want you to go out there and write that book you’ve been wanting to! One word at a time. If you don’t want to write a book, that’s just fine. You simply go out there and have a happy Wednesday!
BONUS BLOG MATERIAL!
What?! Yes, it’s true! Tell everyone you know!
According to the Google, a dangling participle is “a participle or participial phrase, often found at the beginning of a sentence, that appears from its position to modify an element of the sentence other than the one it was intended to modify, as plunging in Plunging hundreds of feet into the gorge, we saw Yosemite Falls.” Oh, yeah—there's a lot of dangle in the clusterf*%@k.
Find my novels, THE MOSQUITO HOURS and TALKING UNDERWATER, online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And don’t forget your local independent bookstore! I’m curious about something: would you like to stay up-to-date on news about my books as well as have my latest blog posts conveniently delivered to your inbox? Then subscribe to my newsletter! Click on that little box right over there on the right. See how easy I made that for you? (You’re welcome.)