How Should I Write My Book?

 

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There is so much writing advice out there. Tips and tricks, instruction and direction, ways to plot and ways to pants.

We want to read all that advice. It’s a conundrum. We can’t stop learning (and who would want to?) but we must, eventually, get on with it.

If I’m spending weeks (okay, months years) reading about how to write, I’m not writing. It’s really that simple.

Some will say it’s self-doubt. Some that it’s fear of failure (or success). Eh. It’s certainly possible.

I think part of it is “the writer’s mind”.

We want to educate ourselves on all sorts of things. We want to know what’s what with the age group we’re targeting – what our audience will respond to. Or learn as much as we can about the setting of our story. Or what the hospital procedure would be for our character who’s just been brought in with a knife wound.

Admittedly, there’s a bit of Am I doing this right? but that’s to be expected and, honestly, I’m not sure how much of that can be blamed on self-doubt. I guess it depends. Because “the writer’s mind” is a tricky thing.

Listen to yourself and your tone: How should I write my book?

That is kind of a huge question. It’s also an interesting one. How are you saying it? Why are you asking it?

That can be a self-doubter’s dream. It puts off the actual writing part of writing your book.

Is this a good opening? I like to just write but so-and-so says I should outline. I should really learn to outline. But I recently read that article about how to plot as a pantser. I should read that again. Or maybe I should listen to that podcast about…oh, yeah, that agent is having a Q&A on Twitter today! I should totally do that.

Then again, it’s smart. It gives you much-needed info about the process, category, and genre, among other things.

How many pages does a MG novel have to be? Can I use swears? Is kissing allowed for this age group? Actually…is this MG or YA?

These are valid questions. Definitely do some research. But, then, sit down and start typing. It might be a good idea to set aside a bit of time for even more research as the market changes or unexpected scenes pop up in your book. But don’t get sidetracked. I’ve noticed (from personal experience) writers love to read about writing, write about writing, and talk about writing.

That’s awesome. All of it. But we also need to write.

So, once you’ve read and learned and researched and read some more, the question How Should I Write My Book? is quite easily answered: Sit down and write.

 

Is this an issue for you? Do you put off your writing to read about writing?

 

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70 thoughts on “How Should I Write My Book?

  1. I pretty much follow the passion of my story and inspiration. Strike while the iron is hot. You can fine tune the parts for tone, swearing, target audience afterwards in the second draft. I find it easier to a something to mold than trying to write to fit into certain criteria. Writing without limitations keeps away writers block and other stifling instruments deigned to stop the flow… because – as you said it’s all about writing. Plus, the process of writing, editing and criticizing your work is a valuable learning process too. For me, perfection is an elusive creature that will see me never finish a novel… Wish you all the best in your writhing adventure 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I know how you feel about this – but writing is more about self expression than ‘doing it right’ whatever right is. How does an artist draw or paint? They draw or paint. So how does a writer write a book? Write! Good luck and get it going! 🙂

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  3. Read and write, write and read. These are the only words of advice I would ever offer anyone who wants to write. Read, so you learn how other writers go about telling stories. The more you read, the more you will differentiate styles. Then write. Write everything that comes into your head. If you have a story in mind, write it down. Sit in your local coffee shop and watch people. write about the people you see: give them a life, an ailment, good or bad news, let them wait for someone, plan a deed, give them a heart attack or trip them up. Maybe they have children or a pet? Then read what you’ve written. Keep doing these things. Reading books about how to write doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Most writers love to read. I read a lot of novels but have definitely fallen into the pattern of reading blogs, articles, and books on the process of writing. I love learning. I do think they are helpful but, eventually, I have to just write. And I do write. A lot. It’s just that I stop when I notice yet another post or book about how to fix description or setting or outlines. I’m a pantser so I need all the help I can get with structure. But, I guess the thing is, I need to pick up my writing again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I can’t read those how to write books although, when I branched out into screenwriting, I did read Robert McKee’s ‘Story’ but that’s like a master class from, well, a master. That’s why reading books by great writers is essential. It doesn’t mean you should copy them or write like them but it will familiarise you with style and once you learn that, you’ll discover your own.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I think it’s true for a lot of writers, Sarah, but you’re right – you need to get on and write.

    In a similar vein, I got really into personal development in the late ’80s and devoured books, cassettes (I did say the ’80s), videos and seminars. But eventually I realised I was so busy studying how to improve as a person, I wasn’t getting on with it…

    The screenwriter, Brian Clemens had the attitude that the process of writing wasn’t hard. “Arse to chair, pen to paper,” was his motto. We probably all need to do more of that

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I struggle with writing my book. It’s definitely a self-doubt thing. I question the genre I write in. I question the audience I’m targeting. I question the ideas I have for a book. There’s a lot. It’s a wonder that I make the claim a writer.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Self-doubt is SO common. I see it all the time. And, of course, I’ve felt it and written about it. So that’s fun. You should make the claim. If you write, then you are a writer. If you need to read more about an area of writing, do it, then write. You can question your process but don’t question yourself. 🙂 I like Dermott’s quote from Kurt Vonnegut.

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  6. Sarah, you are exactly right – sit down and get to it. As long as it resonates with you, it should go well. Then you find yourself a critique group to advise you on whether it will resonate with readers in general and offer some tips on what to do!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I like what you’ve said about it resonating with YOU. There are many novels and stories I’ve started that I absolutely love then I think, “Eh. Not many people will appreciate what I’m trying to do here. Or like it. Or even understand it.” I need to worry about that much later or I’ll never finish anything!

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  7. Interesting, Sarah. I didn’t have as much information around when I started to write, so probably fewer distractions. (As a late adopter of technology, there was no Twitter or writing blogs.) Then I had to learn how I should have done it. In the end, I guess we all muddle along.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I didn’t have all that much, either. I had about a dozen books but never writing blogs and all this social media. Definitely fewer distractions, but a lot of time flipping through those books. I like the idea of muddling along. I’ll eventually wind up somewhere.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Not really an issue for me. But I am primarily writing poetry…and with the case of “Pantheon” It is formatted as poetry with prose woven in.

    So I have never really come across this question, myself.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Fair enough. Surely, though, there are people who have strict standards on what poetry “should” be, or how you’re “supposed” to write it. I used to write haiku for fun on Lemon Shark Reef before people told me it was wrong. It HAS to be 5-7-5, it DOES NOT have to be 5-7-5, it CAN BE 5-7-5 but that’s for people who don’t know what they’re doing, etc.

      I think writing advice is much more prevalent in fiction writing, though. Keep doing what you’re doing. ❤ #mast

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I do put things off but I also get to write a lot so… I have always found just writing to be so much fun and never worry how s**t it is to start with. I’ll polish the fecal matter later. I do think a lot of people find it hard to get past the ‘this is crap’ problem. So? SOO? Do it.

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  10. Lol. Just lol. Not sure if I can answer this. Because like… If I write or read about writing I’m not writing. But then I write all the time. Is this a paradox?

    I guess I get to a point and realise you can’t edit a blank page. And all the am I doing this right, what sort of opening is right for my age range is pointless if I have nothing down on paper to tweak. Sigh. Better stop reading posts!

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  11. Thank you for this post! I’ve always felt like I “should” be reading more about how to write because instead I’ve been reading about my genre, research and writing the way it best fits me and my preference for organizing. Of course, I do think it makes a difference if one is an experienced writer or not. I believe all levels of writers need to stay educated on craft, but as one progresses, don’t get caught up in the beginner conundrums. We were all once beginners and we are all learners; even masters have more room for growth. But we need to understand where we are at and which questions to ask. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re right. We do need to stay educated on craft and grow as writers but I love your line about not getting “caught up in the beginner conundrums”. I think that’s exactly what I tend to do. Reading advice just because it’s there and not really thinking about whether I need it. You are researching and, to me, that is different. It’s necessary.

      We are learners. Wouldn’t want to change that! 🙂

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  12. Yep, I totally relate! I am always drawn to books and articles about writing, but I find over and over that what I need most of all is just to stick my butt in a chair and write! There will always be helpful things to learn from other writers, but I will learn the most by just doing it!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Hey, have you been spying on me?

    You’re spot on, smartypants. Just do the work! I had to unsubscribe to all those e-newsletters about how to write. I had to stop showing up in the forums I had joined about writing. I had to pry my fingers off all those books and shelve them back in the library for some other poor sap to get distracted reading. Well, all except Save the Cat! I’m hanging onto that, using it as a guide.

    Now, if I can just get my sad sack self out of bed early enough to devote some actual time at the writing task!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think I might be headed toward the unsubscribe thing, too. Hate to do it but I think I must. At least temporarily. Right. Save the Cat. Damn.
      *runs out to buy*
      *reads about writing*
      *writes about it*
      *admits to spying on Diane*

      Like

  14. I’ve been there with that whole pantsing vs plotting idea. I never could make plotting work for me, but at the same time, I’m constantly inside my head, carrying me from point A to B in books 2 to 3 and dagnabbit, now my brain is in book 4. I know what’s going to happen. I just can’t write it down.

    Thankfully, I classify my stories as Adult, so I don’t abide by any age rules as to what I’m allowed to do. But I see it often enough in my critique group for people who are targeting that age range.

    I think once you learn it once, you don’t have to go back to look at advice on that subject. So it’s all in the order of operations. Do you want to learn first and write it correctly the first time? Or do you want to revise and edit it to adhere to rules after the fact? Or do you want to disregard the rules and possibly annoy/anger people?

    What I struggle with is adding emotion and tension. Unfortunately, a stranger’s advice can’t tell me replace this with that and blamo, you’ve got it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Things are constantly changing, though. That’s part of the problem. Also, I can’t imagine stopping learning. I love learning. But I also love writing. Order of operations. Interesting. I don’t need to write it correctly or perfectly the first time. I just need to get something down. (So sorry to do this, especially in a comment on THIS post, but the Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is awesome. Their whole collection is. This is another part of the problem. Amazing advice that makes your writing better is hard to let go of…)

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      • Oh yes, with the way I wrote my comment, the suggestion is perfect. The unfortunate thing is that I think a scene is fine and critique partners say, “I didn’t get any emotion from so-and-so.” Then I have to have them tell me what emotion would be expected where. That’s where I falter. All the advice won’t help when I’m incapable of identifying where there should be something. Once I know what emotion goes where, tools like the emotion thesaurus and their site, One Stop for Writers, really help. But it’s not like seek and destroy words that you can find and replace. Same goes with tension. I can’t tell when it’s not there.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. The only writing craft books that ‘get me going’ are Steven Pressfield’s. I read his books and writing has not been an issue. He cleared up a lot of my issues about starting etc. I then got Sacha Black to shout at me regularly…works a treat! Lol

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    • I love Anne Lamott. I know this flies in the face of my post here but I should take a look at Pressfield’s books. (Nooooooo!)

      Yes. Sacha is a wonderful motivator. The shaming and shouting are delightful. 😉 It does work though, doesn’t it?

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  16. Great post. I enjoy reading books and articles on writing to gain some different perspectives, but essentially I write how I write and my reading time doesn’t surpass my writing time in the least. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Aw. You’re my writing Dory. “Just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep writing, writing, writing… What do we do? We write. Write.” 🙂

      No? Okay. Point taken, though. How do I get my book out there? Keep writing. After I’ve started, that is. Which I have. So, actually, your point is much more on target than mine.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. All very good questions, these. The kids’ writing group I mentor brings these questions up regularly.

    I had to laugh at “Can I use swears?” The group had a lively discussion about that one. I’m not a fan of their using swear words because I don’t think swears are a good vocabulary builder.

    So I told them, “I never want to see the F word or the SH word.”

    One kid says to me, “SH word? You mean we can’t use the word shelf?”

    Bahaha! That still makes me laugh.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha! 😀 “Shelf”. Silly kid. But why don’t you let them use “shake” in their writing?

      I can imagine the lively discussion you all had. I do use swears occasionally (often?) and I think, in context, they can be good but, overall, I agree. Especially when teaching writing. Swears “aren’t good vocabulary builders”. Great way to put it.

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  18. I love this! I spent far too many years reading about getting started instead of starting – when I took part in my first NaNo it changed everything for me. There was no time to worry, edit, or fact check – getting the words on the page had to be the main focus. It’s only after the event that I could begin to put everything I’d read about into action. I still enjoy reading how-to write books, but I learn more from the reviews I receive from readers – they tell me exactly what I did well (or not!!) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah. NaNo. Hmm… I have never done that and I don’t think I’d like it. But I could use a no-time-to-edit way of writing. I am temporarily halting all reading on what I’m supposed to do and how I’m supposed to do it and just writing. I know there will be times when I need to look something up but then I have to get back to writing.

      Exactly. “Getting the words on the page…” Yes. That. 🙂 Thanks, Shelley.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Hi Sarah, You’ve asked some great questions because you’ve got some great responses. I think the only way you write is by writing (the advice you gave yourself) but you also hone your skills and style by reading, not necessarily books about writing, but books that are written well. Throw in a few that are not written well too and you’ll soon see the difference and not want to make the same mistakes. I think it’s probably impossible to write well if you’re not well read, but it’s also impossible to write well if you don’t write. You write well, you’ve demonstrated that to us so often. I think so far as age group, target audience and appropriateness goes, you’re probably better writing what comes to you and then see what you’ve got and how to rewrite for a particular audience, which may not be the one you started off writing it for. And I apologise. I shouldn’t be giving any advice as I haven’t written a novel, but I think this is how I’d do it. Everyone has their own idea about writing – and so do you. You are the only one who knows what suits you. Just do it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. “I think the only way you write is by writing…” And, also, a big yes to developing skills by reading. It’s a conundrum. Agree with everything you’ve said here. Writers should read. Even if it’s not a how-to article or book but novels, short stories, anything… I’ll worry about audience and so forth later. It keeps me from writing if it’s on my mind so I need to just write. And you absolutely should be giving advice as it’s always genuine and always helpful. 🙂 Thanks, Norah.

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  20. I agree with most of the comments. It’s a good idea to read about how others write their novels, to make ypu aware of the fact that there are many ways, but in the end you have to write your own way.
    I’ve sort of found mine after writing 3 novels. I found Save the Cat useful because it suits the way that works for me.
    I use 3 parts/acts about 15 beats and 40 scenes. I think it’s useful to identify your opening and closing image, midpoint, turning points, climax, and resolution as early on as possible. As long as it’s not written in stone. They’re there to help you not constrain you!
    Btw I loved On Writing by Stephen King. Lots of food for thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. A nice mix of learning and doing. When we focus too much on one or the other, we’re missing out. I just want to get writing. Which I am, actually. But, yes, there are some great books out there: On Writing is good. Also, Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott). And…I just decided to get Save the Cat. I’ve read so many good reviews about that one. Though I’m not sure if that will help or hinder the way I write. I’m going to write a bit more before I read anything else. 🙂

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  21. Pingback: Who’s That Blogger? Sarah Brentyn | Book Club Mom

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