Saturday, October 23, 2010

So You're Writing a Book

So you're writing a book. Well done! That's takes some guts and a lot of patience. You want to know why? Well, there are a few reasons. Firstly: it takes a while to write a book unless you have a lot of free time on your hands and you write very quickly. I mean, it's easy to get a lot written very quickly, but you actually need to time to do it. Many people do not have this time, so it can take a long time to write the book even writing very quickly.

Secondly, the questions. Also thirdly, the questions, but I'll get back to those ones later. The first set of questions are the ones you need to ask yourself. And trust me, asking yourself questions that you then have to answer can make you seem like a crazy person. But you need to ask yourself: What is the plot of my novel? When is my novel set? Where does all the action take place? Who is my main character? Why is my character behaving in this way? How will my character resolve the predicament he/she is in? And many other questions revolving around the five Ws and the H. Basically, if you can't answer a question like that, your novel isn't making much sense to the reader.

BUT you have to remember something. First drafts don't have to be great. You can get away with writing a lot very quickly when writing a first draft if you don't stop to ask yourself questions about everything straight away. When it comes to challenges like NaNoWriMo, you need to avoid stalling like that. Just write like crazy. Ask the questions when you're editing, instead. Just make sure you can answer them, and fix everything up to make things work well as a whole.

Now, that second set of questions: the ones other people ask. The worst one, by far, is 'What's your book about?' Oh. My. God. This is by far the most annoying question; how is an author supposed to sum up his/her novel in the space of a few words, when in a writer's mind the book is a larger piece? Also, 'about'? A lecturer of mine despises that word regarding literature (and probably movies, too.) You know why? Because 'about' can make it too easy to summarise a piece incorrectly. Hamlet is about a prince out for revenge. Right? Yes, but it's also 'about' a prince whose father has been killed, who may or may not be feigning madness, who mistreats one of the most lovely characters, as well as being about the relationships between parents and children, brothers and sisters, lovers, employers and employees, and about the concept of revenge outside of Hamlet's endeavours. So when a writer is asked what his/her novel is about... there is no easy answer. My book Meet Sam is about a writer with a narrator in his head. That's the 'Hamlet is about a prince out for revenge' explanation. Meet Sam is also about insecurities, relationships with various people, underlying depression, writing, a city and various significances that I don't have the time to go into right now. Can I say that to someone asking the question 'What's your book about?' No. No I cannot.

People refuse to accept the easy answer but they get bored with the longer one. And unfortunately for the aspiring author, many people also ask, 'Is it published?' Now, I could easily respond by saying, 'Have you heard of me before now?' or 'If I was published I would be trying to sell you the book, not trying to evade answering a thousand questions about it', but people generally don't respond well to things like that.

So... still writing that book? You should! Not every writer that wrote a book was patient all the time; personally, I'd rather not wait until NaNoWriMo started to do my novel for it, but I wouldn't be able to add on another 50000 words to whatever I write during my reading week. Also, I kind of have essays to prepare for, too. And as for the questions..? Well, you learn to get past them when all the people who care have asked them. I get them every now and then, but generally it's because one or two people were told and then others found out through them. I think it's just the idea of writing a book that people like, because not everyone does it. It's like when people have a high grade in a musical instrument; suddenly that person is very interesting, because not many people have high grades in an instrument.

And you know what else? Writing a book can be fun. If you're doing NaNoWriMo, just keep your head down, get your words for the day (and thensome, if you can manage), plan in advance (unless your style is to wing it!) and when it comes to people making plans, and school/college/work stuff coming up, arrange your writing time around it (so that you don't fail at school/college or lose your job/friends). If you find your motivation lacking (particularly around week 3), just remember to Power Through! It works, trust me. Just keep on going, keep on writing, and don't worry about quality. You can always edit the book when it's finished.

So you're writing a book; the plot bunnies are running free. Good luck!

1 comment:

Marcus Carab said...

Good stuff! I also dislike being asked what something is "about", almost as much as I loathe being asked "what kind of music I make" (though not nearly as much as I squirmed the one time I was asked "what style are you?")

This isn't my first try at NaNoWriMo - though last year I only got to 17,000 words. I plan to make the full fifty this year, one way or another. I'm working with several friends to document our exploits, along with other fiction, on a new blog called Stranger Than Truth. Check it out! It lives at: