What it takes to write a book

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I’m taking one of my frequent breaks while writing my latest story to reveal how I go about doing it. I’ve spent the last twenty-five years honing the particular method that works for me.

First I write a paragraph. Then I take a cold hard look at the words I’ve written, in particular their order as I’m doing right now while writing this post. It is at this point that I begin to edit the words written, not only for ease of reading, but also from the point of view of spacing, capitalization when required, spelling, grammar and punctuation. While at the same time asking myself what other words can I use that mean the exact same thing, but still clearly convey my meaning to the reader, bearing in mind that there is alway more than one way to say something.

There is only one method when it comes to writing to be avoided at all costs. Sitting in front of your exercise book, typewriter or computer kidding yourself that by churning out thousands of words per day, that somehow by osmosis, doing so makes you a writer. It doesn’t! For the serious independent writer like myself, this line of thinking is a complete fallacy!

In the end all you have achieved is a big mess for someone else to fix, when you should have cleaned the manuscript up yourself before presenting it to your editor, if you use one!

All you have to do is think back to those bad marks you got in class for handing in sloppy work when you presented your essay or composition to your teacher? In this instance imagine that your editor is that teacher, wearing his or her ‘we are not amused’ expression on his or her face, at the prospect of having to make sense of your rambling manuscript…

We all see prime examples on a daily basis right here in the Blogosphere. If you can’t write an error free blog post, what makes you think you can write an error free book manuscript?

NaNoWriMo and other get it down quick notions have a lot to answer for! I’m pretty sure the concept was dreamt up by someone with an obsessive-compulsive disorder. 😉

Once you are finally happy with the paragraph, move on to the next and repeat each step I have mentioned. If your word count reaches somewhere between two hundred and fifty and five hundred words using this method, take it from me you have done a good day’s work.

Why do I limit the number of words I write each day? Simple – a little thing I call brain-fade! Ask yourself how long you can work at 100% capacity before you lose your concentration. This is precisely the reason why I constantly stop what I’m doing to take a breather. What you have to learn is to walk away from it! Go and make yourself a drink or get something to eat. In other words distract yourself. You can always return to it later. I normally work for no more than two hours at a stretch each and every day until I’ve reached the last word in the manuscript.

Each morning when I switch this laptop on, I open the saved file I’m using and once again begin the editing process by reading through what I’ve previously written. Often I see something that needs to be changed. Once I have corrected any mistakes during the daily read through, I can then begin to write the next paragraph.

See, its simple if you know how. My method of constant editing is not for everyone, but it works for me. Remember what I said earlier – a high daily word count is not a good thing unless you have no choice ie, you are a contracted writer for one of the big five publishing houses, where time is money and badly written manuscripts are the norm…

There is one last point for you to consider, turn off the in house spelling or grammar checkers within any writing software package you use. There is no substitute for having a dictionary like the Oxford English and its thesaurus close at hand. Learn to rely on the mark one eyeball like every writer worth their salt does.

PS – right that’s it, lesson over…

😉

When writing becomes a vocation and not merely a hobby

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While I admire anyone who loves to express themselves through their writing, there comes a time when you have to choose between continuing with what to you is an enjoyable hobby, and taking it up as a full time vocation. Please note that I did say vocation and not occupation. There is a marked difference…

It takes an awful amount of guts and determination on your part to take that giant leap into the uncertain world of literature, often for little monetary gain let alone plaudits for your work from the reading public and your peers. Apart from anything else you can expect to endure a lot of heartache, angst and sleepless nights as I can personally vouch for from my own experience gleaned over the past two and a half decades as a relatively successful published Indie author.

Right now, if you have actually been reading my posts and not merely clicking ‘like’, you will know I’m a fan of romance not necessarily between a man and a woman in some of my books. Forgive me I digress, but the ‘clickers’ of this world do tend to annoy me especially when they don’t actually bother to read the post they have just ‘liked’. I know of what I speak. The viewing stats don’t lie!.

Now where was I, oh yes – I was about to say that rarely if ever do I get a good night’s sleep when writing a new book, at least until the first draft is finished. Nagging thoughts about something in the story literally wake me every night anywhere from midnight to four or five am. The downside of getting up so early is that I’m lucky if I’m still awake after six-thirty pm. So relaxing in front of the television in the evening is out.

While the amateur loves the idea of writing thousands of words while engaging in a writing phenomena like Nanowrimo, or indeed some hard working writers I know in the traditional publishing world who must set themselves a daily word count in the multiples of thousands, due to the demands of their agents and publishers, I do not follow suit. In my case I don’t see the point in churning out thousands of words each day, which in all probability will end up being edited out as totally nonsensicle by your’s truly.

Instead I tend to write between two to five hundred words, (the latter being roughly the length of this blog post) knowing full well that when I do go back over them, that in all likelyhood three quarters will either get deleted or be re-written so many times that in the end they bear little resemblance to the first attempt, before I’m satisfied enough to move on to the next part of the story. Even when writing posts like this one, I spend more time re-writing than anything else (thirty-two times so far).  😉

So, if you are thinking about making your hobby your vocation, take it from me it requires total dedication and a will of iron on your part. One last thing for you to remember – what works for me won’t necessarily work for you.

For now that’s it folks.

More later,

Jack

😀