Since I could remember, I’ve wanted to write a book. I still remember my first completed attempt at becoming a literary sensation; a rudimentary story about 4 friends sharing the last hotdog left to them for sustenance in an alien world on which they were inexplicably stranded. I’m not sure what inspiration was for that typical novella, but I do remember taking more time to glue cardboard to construction paper (making a “hard back”), and threading a spring through the thing to create a spine than I had writing the story. I was 8, so I promptly lost the entire thing.
Even earlier than that, I remember my mother attempting to publish a children’s book. The details of that are much clearer to me, because I remember how she worked tirelessly on the story-the story of a happy little sunbeam and his journey to heat the Earth-and how she even let me draw the illustrations, because I loved to draw (what can I say? I was a creative kid.) I also remember pretty clearly the rejection letter that arrived at our apartment after months of waiting. We’re sorry, but we have chosen not to publish your book, blah, blah, blah. I think I was more distressed than she was about the whole thing. She simply moved on, finished nursing school, and that was it.
Even with the looming fear of rejection my mother’s experience gave me, I still grew up with the self assurance that some day, I’d write a fabulous story and have thousands (if not millions) of impassioned fans of my work. Movie studios would be fighting for the rights to my novel, and I’d eventually be rich beyond my wildest dreams.
What I learned instead? Writing a book is hard. So hard, in fact, that I’ve written dozens of stories, only to NEVER FINISH them. Sure, I could chalk it up to my self diagnosed adult ADD, or my tireless pursuit of perfection (by which I mean I will read and re-read a story or idea I’ve begun and tear it apart until I’ve reduced it to nearly nothing) but the truth of the matter is that story writing isn’t something you just sort of stumble upon or that falls out of you simply and perfectly. Not if it’s going to be any good anyway. I get so angry when quasi celebrities are able to throw together (or have someone else throw together, let’s be real), some poor excuse for a book, and instantly shoot to the top of the best seller list. It’s just that kind of thing to make an aspiring writer (?) like myself cringe and give up entirely. Without already being a “name”, how can you possibly make an impression on anyone aside from your friends and family?
So, here’s the deal. I am in no way an expert on anything (except for maybe working in retail, coordinating outfits, and complaining) but here are some things that have helped me get over myself and write something I can at least be proud of. I’m not calling them “tips” because they aren’t tips. Tips are what qualified individuals give you. These are just some basic ideas.
1) Walk away.
If you’re struggling with something you’re writing, walk away from it. Have a beer, eat something, and then go back to it later. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written some long winded thing that went absolutely no where, left it alone for a few days only to come back and have some renewed sense of direction. A lot can be said about having a “fresh set of eyes.”
2) Don’t drink and write.
Sure, it SEEMS like a great idea. A glass of red wine to get those creative juices flowing, and suddenly you’re half-way through the bottle and nothing you’re typing will make sense to you later. Trust me.
3) Write what you know, but avoid unnecessary slang and jargon.
Maybe not a concrete idea, but it really bothers me when I’m reading something that’s littered with confusing references, slang and details that aren’t pertinent to the story. It’s generally something written by a novice, such as a piece of fan fiction or a short story written by one of my friends. Unless you indicate that your charterers are from a particular geographical area, including regional dialogue can seem clunky and confusing. If you say something is “Mad interesting” and I’m from Texas, I might not know what the hell you are talking about. Especially when you’re using it in text that isn’t dialogue. (as a side note: We went back and forth over naming the Super Jawncast with similar reasoning, but in the end, it seemed more appropriate than not. There are exceptions to everything.)
Stories that include thoughts that the author has clearly spent some time researching and verifying are almost always a better read.
That’s pretty much all I’ve got for someone who has never finished writing anything. While these things helped me to become a better writer along the way, they are in no way a representation of things that’ll make you a great writer. I’m simply not talented enough to give that kind of advice.
Got any other suggestions? Leave them in the comments section!
Seriously. I need all the help I can get.